Piñatas, Persistence And A Whole Lotta Glue

Last Friday I got to spend the day at school with Batman.  This was a special day, since while I spend most of every Monday helping Annabelle’s two first grade teachers, I rarely get the opportunity to spend time in Zach’s classroom.

The first occasion of the day was assisting in helping thirty kindergarteners each assemble a hand-made piñata.  This was accomplished by blowing up a balloon for each child, then basically watching helplessly as they coated the balloon, the table, the coats on the back of their chairs, and each other with a mixture of flour and water, also known as piñata glue.

It was a sight to see.

This picture was taken of the afternoon class making their piñatas. While overseeing the morning class in their construction efforts,  I’d come up with the idea of covering the next round of munchkins in garbage bags as a sort of smock, to prevent them from being covered in the very sticky white glue substance.  The morning class, who were mostly in their formal navy blue polo shirts, was covered in glue from top to bottom by the time they were finished.  And white glue shows up nicely on navy blue. That rhymes. How clever.  Or lucky.

Glue Everywhere

Anyway, I must admit that my interest was mostly selfish.

You see, Batman is in the afternoon class.

Paper Mache

And I wanted him clean.

Because he was receiving an award that afternoon.

Yes, that’s right. I was so proud of my baby boy.  Each month the school gives an award to a couple of kids from each class who best exhibit the monthly “Core Characteristic,” and for the month of April Batman was chosen for his mastery of the characteristic “Persistence.”

He didn’t know that he was receiving the award, but it was well deserved.

You see, Kindergarten started out as a bit of a challenge for him.  He is an active boy, not accustomed to sitting still for long periods of time, though his attention to detail and focus are commendable on any project that he chooses.  He has had to work hard to get used to the structure and seven-hour days that kindergarten entails at our school, and he’s made great strides.

I was so happy for him.

And look how clean!

Zachs Award

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

Batman Has A Birthday

My baby boy turns six this week, and last weekend we celebrated with what has somehow become our traditional kids birthday party.  I must admit that I lobbied pretty hard for a “destination” type party this time – maybe Chuck E Cheese, Wahooz, the Zoo – somewhere with a defined location and parameters, and someone else to clean up after.  I’m not proud of it, but that’s the truth.

Batman persisted though, and in the end I was glad he did.  It is fun to share the amenities that we enjoy with other kids (and adults too).

So, we cleared the garage (more or less) and set up some tables and chairs, mowed the lawn, and rented a bouncy house complete with a slide.  A few kids from school were invited, along with family and friends, and the party was on.

Grumpy and Reno went above and beyond the call of duty by giving non-stop pony rides from 1:00 to about 5:30.  They were good sports.

Pony Rides

Reno was in big demand for those who hadn’t been on a horse much before.

More Pony Rides

The kids also rode bikes.

Bike Rides

And four-wheelers.

Four Wheeler

Played on the bounce house slide.

035

Posed for pictures on the bounce house slide…..

Girlson Slide

and played hide and seek.

Hide n Seek

The lively crowd whacked the heck out of a Spiderman piñata.

Spider Man Pinata

Batman tried his best, but in the end it was friend Shawny who set the candy free.

Shawny Pinata

Which resulted in a feeding frenzy of totally expected proportions.

Candy Grab

Toward the end of the party there was a cake.  A “Frozen” Movie cake.  With princesses on it. 

Cake Closup

But Batman didn’t care that it was a somewhat, er, feminine theme.  He loves “Frozen”. 

And it did have blue icing.

Frozen Cake

After the children’s festivities wound down Grandma Kay and Grandpa Vernon came by to visit and have dinner with us.  Baby Rex (and his momma)  stayed too. 

G Vernon and Baby Rex

We just celebrated Grandma Kay’s birthday a couple of weeks ago, and I think she looks younger every year.

Kay and Milo

Friends Kari and Tom came to see us as well, and we were all treated to an impromptu beauty pageant.

Grandpa Vernon had the tiebreaker vote, and he pronounced blond Kampbell the winner, since she had the most teeth out of the three contestants.

Beauty Pageant

After dinner wound down, we had three extra kids for the night. 

Annabelle and her two friends, Kampbell and Jelissa, spent the night in her room, watching movies and doing each other’s hair and makeup.  Cliché I know, but true.  At the age of seven.  Wow.

Batman and Kade played in his room, watching “Frozen” over and over again and playing with the cool new toys he got for his birthday.

Early the next morning all three girls were awake early.  They wanted to ride. 

So ride they did.  Until a torrential downpour arrived to send them all scurrying back inside.  I’m pretty sure that Grumpy and Reno were happy to see that rain!

Three Girls

The party finally wound down with the departure of our final guest at about noon on Sunday. 

It was a full twenty-four hours of fun.  I can’t wait until next time.

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Hoppy Trails, Snowfluff

We had to say goodbye to another beloved family pet yesterday.

Annabelle’s little bunny, Snowfluff, began exhibiting some unusual symptoms on Saturday afternoon.  She had her little head turned slightly to the side, like our dog Toby used to do when he got an ear infection.  As the weekend went on the tiny bunny got progressively worse, to the point where her furry head was turned almost upside down on her body.  In just a few short hours she was so unbalanced that she couldn’t eat pellets out of the purple dish she shared with Batman’s bunny, Princess, and she hopped in dizzying circles around the cage trying to eat her hay.

Yesterday morning I searched for a veterinarian to take a look at the bunny, starting with our usual small animal vet and progressing through the three other valley clinics they referred me to.  Each of the four phone calls went the same; they did not have an exotic animal vet available until later in the week.  For some reason I got an inspiration, and remembered reading a newspaper article about a small veterinary office right near us, with a single practitioner who treated all sorts of small animals.  I looked her up and with one phone call we had an appointment for right after school.

The kids and I rushed home after class to get the bunny, and Annabelle held her wrapped in a towel in a little plastic drawer on the drive to the vet, talking to her and trying to calm her down.   She sat on the wooden bench in the small office and answered the questions asked by the receptionist bravely, but I could tell she was really worried about her bunny.

Poor little Snowfluff was so disoriented that she would occasionally just start spinning in the towel, her entire body thrashing in an effort to right herself.  It was heart wrenching to watch.

Waiting for Doctor

The veterinarian was very kind, and it didn’t take her more than a minute or two to diagnose the problem.  Snowfluff had a grievous infectious disease that causes lesions of infection inside a bunny’s head.  Because the infection was deep in the skull it was impossible to treat effectively, and the only kind thing would be to put the bunny to sleep.  Many bunnies from pet stores (like Zamzow’s, where we got ours) are carriers of the disease, the vet told us.  Some bunnies develop the lesions and some do not.

Soft-hearted Batman was inconsolable at the news, and the vet gave Snowfluff a sedative to quiet her (which got Batman’s attention, as he asked in a snuffling voice “Is that the killing shot?”), then left us alone in the examining room for a few minutes to say goodbye.  After only a few minutes more the vet walked out and handed us a small cardboard box with Snowfluff’s body inside.  Batman insisted on opening the box and stroking the bunny, tears falling on her soft fur as he reached inside and kissed her one last time.

We’ll bury Snowfluff outside, next to Batman’s departed bunny this afternoon once the ground dries up a bit.  The vet told us that we should not acquire another bunny as a pet while  Princess is still alive, since while she might never develop the disease herself she was surely a carrier of it after living with Snowfluff for the past few months.

We talked a lot about Snowfluff after we got home, and about what happens when you die.

Batman said he prefers to think that Snowfluff is a wild bunny now, living in heaven with Batman/Blackie, the bunny that Winston the Maniac Dog dispatched last fall.

As for Miss Annabelle, she is using the opportunity to lobby for another hamster.

Sep Bunny Dress Up

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Batman Learns to Ride A Bike

Last Thursday I was working hard on a business project for Desperate Hubby.  When I picked the kids up from school that day I pretty much went straight into my office at home and stayed there until chore time.   I took a break to feed the horses and dogs in the drizzling rain, then was right back in my chair at about 5:30.  If I focused I could probably get my spreadsheets done that night.

At about 5:31 Batman presented himself at my office door.   He wanted to go outside and ride his bike.

Batman owns two bikes.  Both are cute little red machines, one has training wheels and he has ridden it for the last year and a half or so, very sporadically.  The other is slightly larger, with no training wheels, and he got that one from his cousin a year ago for his birthday.  He has never even tried to ride it.

I said no.  Daddy would be home any minute and he was going to make dinner.  I was busy, and there was no one to watch him outside.

Batman didn’t care.

“Why can’t I just go outside?”

I explained about the rain.  I explained about the ensuing darkness.  I explained about the mud.

Batman didn’t care.

He said he was going to just ride on the concrete not the mud.  He would wear his helmet and his pads.

He was going to teach himself to ride without training wheels.

Ah, I thought, this shouldn’t last long.  So I said fine, go outside and ride your bike.

I called in faithful Annabelle and asked her to please go out to the garage and watch her brother while he rode on the concrete parking pad, and to report if anything serious went wrong.  They headed outside.

At about 6:15 I decided I had worked so hard on my project that I should probably have a glass of wine.  When I walked into the kitchen I could see Batman outside the open garage door.  He had fallen on the ground; he was not crying, but he was not riding either.  Since it was nearly dark and raining harder than before I convinced him to come in the house and put off his self-taught riding lesson until the next afternoon.

Annabelle was very kind and promised him that as soon as they got home from school the next day she would go outside with him and help him.  Annabelle, incidentally, rides with training wheels too.

Friday was a lovely day, and I had a fun and productive riding lesson with my two beloved mares at the trainer’s in Kuna. I was driving home, pulling the horse trailer (in DH’s truck) when I learned this little life detail:  you can’t trust the computer on the truck to tell you when you are about to run out of diesel.    ‘41 Miles to Empty’ apparently can also mean ‘Forty-one Feet to Empty.’  My drive home subsequently took far longer than I had planned, and by the time I pulled into the driveway at about 3:30 DH had already picked the kids up from their 3:00 school release and they were outside playing.

I immediately spied Batman’s shiny red and black helmet, bobbing quickly down the dirt road.  How cute! was my first thought.  My second thought was, Why didn’t his dad make him change out of his school uniform?

A moment later I realized something else.  Batman was riding merrily along with no training wheels.

Look at Him Go

I unloaded the horses and put them away as my son rode in circles around me.

“I got it, mom!  I got it!!”  Clearly he did.  In less than two hours practice, with no adult supervision, my five-year old boy child had taught himself to ride a bike.

Amazing.

Especially since this is the same kid who regularly refuses to get himself dressed in the morning because he says he doesn’t know how, and who often forgoes an afternoon snack because he is too lazy to wash his hands.

I watched him ride for another half hour or so.  He crashed hard once, but shook it off as though it was nothing.  This is from the kid who puts half a box of band aids over a hang nail and refuses to bathe because there’s a chance they might fall off in the water.

The Crash

He kept on riding well into the evening, coming in the house only when it got dark.  Saturday morning he was up and ready to go out to ride at 6:00 am (this from the kid who kicks and screams every single morning when he has to be at school by 8:00).  I forced him to wait until it was fully light, at about 7:30, and he spent much of the rest of the day cruising happily around the property.

I have no idea where the child got the balance or the fortitude to learn what I think is a fairly complex skill all by himself.  Anyone who has ever seen me run or ski or even walk for that matter knows it wasn’t from me.  DH admits that it took him days if not weeks of help from his dad and older brother to learn to ride a bike.

I guess he’s a happy freak of nature.

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A Sunny Spring Day (kind of)

It was a positively spring-like day yesterday morning.  Temperatures were near sixty degrees, and the sun shone brightly.  The kids and I were excited to take the horses to the foothills for a nice long ride to enjoy the day. 

Unfortunately, we were competing with daddy, who was planning a fishing trip to Lucky Peak, so at the last moment we lost our male companion and it was just Annabelle and me. 

She caught the horses and took their blankets off so they were ready to load.

Getting Ready

We made the forty-minute drive to Eagle in good form, and got saddled up to head out. 

Walking to the Gate

There some clouds moving in, and the wind was a little more than brisk as we walked to the gate, but we were still happy.  Annabelle rode happily along, eating her peanut butter and jelly sandwich as she went.

Eating a sandwich

We climbed and climbed to the top. 

Up the Mountain

And when we got there the wind really hit us.  It was, well, freezing.

But Winston still went for a swim.

Winston Cools Off

Annabelle worked on getting Reno in the pond for several minutes until I told her we had to keep moving or freeze to death.  He ultimately declined the swim.

Trying to swim

We saw a strange bone on the far south side of the mountain, and we couldn’t decide what it had come from. Annabelle wanted to pick it up and bring it home.  I said no.

A Strange Bone

We were very happy to get in the warm truck as soon as we got down the hill.  I had not anticipated the strength of the wind and had forgotten just how cold the foothills can be when the breeze is coming off the snow. 

As for the fishermen, well, they had no bites.  Batman summed up the trip in this sentence:  “I really don’t know why someone would name that place Lucky Peak, because there is definitely nothing lucky about it!!”

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Batman Earns His Spurs

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

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

That all changed yesterday.

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

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

Her PINK spurs. 

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

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

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

And a whole new relationship was born.

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

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

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

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

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

889

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

Annabelle and Reno Standing Tall

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

Batman Standing Tall

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

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

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

View from the Back

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

Pairs Reining

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

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

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LOYALTY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Perseverance- pushing on despite difficulty and hardship.

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

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

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

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

-Ada Valez Boardly

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

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

Annabelle Loyalty

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

photo2

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

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

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

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

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

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Fourteen…..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.

Wedding Pic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And fourteen after that.

Family Pic

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January 2014: Our Family Grows

No, I’m not pregnant!

I hope. Just kidding. I hope.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Milo The Coolest Dog In The World

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

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

Milo is a wonder.

He loves everyone.

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


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

Until he wasn’t.

 

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

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

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

No. Snakes. Period,

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

We had a problem.

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

I called Grandpa Vernon.

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

Off to the pet store we went.

Enter JoJo the Gecko

(See how that rhymes?)

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

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

Batman is terrified of him.

I do think our family is complete now,

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

Wild Horses Couldn’t Drag Her Away

I am not a fan of reality television.

In fact, with the exception of a passing glimpse of the evening news and a few favorites on the cooking channel, I don’t actually watch a whole lot of tv.

A recent find on the National Geo Wild channel changed all that.

One cold weekend in December we happened upon the first of a three-part series called “Mustang Millionaire.”  The basic premise of the show was to follow the adventures of five horse trainers as they bought a wild mustang from one of several approved government sales early in 2013 and trained it for 120 days.  After the training period was finished, the trainers would show the horse in a big horse show, competing for $1 million in total prize money.  The first place prize alone paid a whopping $200,000 cash plus a brand new Dodge Ram pickup.

This program fascinated me on a couple of different levels.  First of all, how does one take a creature that has lived as a wild animal for its entire life and in only four months be performing reining patterns and tricks on it in the middle of the jam-packed Fort Worth stock show arena? Topping that was the surprising realization that these mustang trainers were competing for more than twice the purse of the NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity, where trainers show horses that they have been riding and preparing for almost two years, and which cost tens and sometimes of hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy as a young prospect.  It didn’t seem right somehow.

Nonetheless, we were all pretty intrigued by the program, none more than Annabelle, who declared that someday she, too, would be competing in the Mustang Million competition.  We looked up the data and requirements on the mustang shows and found that they did in fact offer an opportunity for youngsters to show a mustang, allowing trainers as young as eight years old to gentle and exhibit a yearling filly.  That really got Annabelle going.

Thank god she is only seven.

Anyway, since that day we have had much discussion amongst the household about mustangs.  In an amazing display of coincidence, when we took our horses last Saturday over to the Lucky Run arena in Kuna to ride, we got into a discussion with a fellow rider who had just ridden out at the Wilson Creek BLM Management area the previous weekend.  She told us of the excitement of spotting and observing a herd of wild horses right near the trailer parking area.  The Wilson Creek area is home to the Hardtrigger BLM Herd Management Area, which is the range for to up to 160 wild horses at a time according to the BLM website.

We have ridden at Wilson Creek before, a couple of times.  In fact, during one momentous ride last spring, I was privy to the sight of not one but two separate bands of mustangs, which I photographed copiously to share with my horse crazy progeny, who was in school that day.  Annabelle and I rode together at Wilson Creek after that, in the hopes that she could see the horses for herself, but the last time we rode there we famously became a little lost and worried for a while that we might have to eat Winston to survive the night.

Well, we actually didn’t think we’d have to eat Winston, but nonetheless Annabelle lost all navigational trust in me that day and has subsequently refused to even consider returning to Wilson Creek to ride while under my direction.

I don’t really blame her.

Anyway, after talking to Katie about the wild horses for awhile I sensed that my little girl’s mental wheels were turning.  We were driving to our friend Christine’s house for dinner that night when she got an inspiration.  “Mom, do you think we could see if Christine wants to go with us to Wilson Creek tomorrow to see the wild horses?  I’ll ride Reno and she can ride Grumpy.”  We have ridden with Christine quite a few times in the past, and Annabelle trusts her implicitly not to get us lost, and takes comfort in the fact that she knows how to operate her GPS effectively.  As well as the 9mm sidearm she never leaves home without.

I agreed that we should invite Christine out, since I love to ride with her and I was also pretty sure she hadn’t been on a long trail ride since her return from her family’s year long sailing excursion last fall (www.truansea.com), if you’d like to read their awesome blog about it), though I warned Annabelle our friend might not be able to go on such short notice.

We hadn’t been in the door of Christine’s house two minutes before my ultra-focused daughter inquired about her riding availability.  To all of our mutual delight, she reported that she was available to go out the next day and would love to join us.  That settled it.

Annabelle was up early on Sunday preparing. She cleaned out the horse trailer and filled it with a fresh bag of shavings.  She filled the hay bags with feed for the trip and somehow managed to hoist them over her head to clip them in place for each horse in the trailer.  Then she caught the horses and insisted on loading them all herself while Christine and I watched on.

She is a bit of a show-off, that kid.

We made the thirty-minute drive to Wilson Creek in good spirits.  Christine said it had been at least twenty years since she had ridden that area, and Annabelle told her all about the time I had gotten us lost there.

When we got to the parking lot we unloaded and started saddling up.  Christine had her own saddle and packs for Grumpy, and Annabelle directed her as to the proper grooming techniques and bridle to be used for her horse.  Bossy little thing.

Given that it was a cold afternoon (the temperature gauge on my truck said 27 when we arrived) with remnants of snow covering the rocky ground, we were surprised that there were a few fellow riders in the parking area getting ready to hit the trails.  Just as we were about ready to head out ourselves, we were joined by one more truck and trailer.  It parked right beside us, and the two gentlemen got out of the vehicle and headed right over to where we stood.

They wanted to talk about Reno, who was looking quite sporty with his pink vet-wrapped front legs, which perfectly matched his rider’s winter coat and stocking hat. The conversation sort of took off from there, and we learned our new friends names (Jim and Bob) and that it was Bob’s birthday that day.  Jim and Bob were frequent riders at Wilson Creek, and told us that they had just spotted the wild horses the previous weekend.

They went back to their trailer and started saddling their own mounts, and in a few minutes called over to us.  They were inviting us to ride along with them.  They thought they just might be able to find the wild horses for Annabelle.

Now normally I am a pretty cautious rider, and I certainly would not have ridden off into the back country with a couple of strange men, especially with my seven-year old daughter along.  But we were with Christine.  And Christine’s gun.  And they looked like really nice guys.

See?

our guides

Annabelle was vocally eager to throw our lot in with them, and after little hesitation we all headed out together, Reno trotting along to keep up with the faster pace of Lightning and Dakota, Bob and Jim’s experienced trail horses.

Up the Trail

Despite the cold, it was a beautiful day.  The sun was shining and there was no wind.  That was why it was easy to get lulled into a sense of ease and tranquility.

Which didn’t last forever.

We headed off pretty much due south, and started climbing right away.  After about an hour the path became icy and narrow.  This was no problem for Lightning and Dakota, nor for Reno, who has done many a back country mile on his stubby black legs.

Icy Little Path

But Christine and I were riding arena horses.  Show horses.  Horses that were wearing metal shoes that slipped on the icy frozen snow.  I was getting nervous.

Up the Icy Trail

I told myself not to be a baby.  And then I heard Christine, who was riding behind me call out.  “Are you comfortable on this trail, Paula?”  My reply was swift.  “Not really,” I answered.  “Grumpy is struggling a bit on the ice,” she reported back.

After a brief discussion we decided to get off and lead the horses for a bit, and our guides promised to divert shortly over to a trail that would not be so slick.  For her part Annabelle was pretty disgusted with us older ladies, opting to stay on her horse instead of walking.

After of course she made sure we understood that this did not mean we were turning around.  After a bit we did get off the ice.  Mostly. But we kept on climbing.

Single Track

And climbing.

Up the Steep Hill

Annabelle kept right up with Lightning.  Christine and I plugged along as best we could.  Our horses were out of shape, and unaccustomed to the steep terrain.  We were afraid to push them too hard.

We stopped here and there for pictures of each other.  I still looked pretty happy here.

Mama and Freckles

Christine loved riding Grumpy.  Of course.  He is a gem.

She didn’t even mind the pink polo wraps that Annabelle had carefully wrapped around Grumpy’s front legs before we left.  Even though they totally didn’t match her orange saddle bags and holster.

Christine on Grumpy

All along, whenever the front riders waited for us to catch up and we got to chat for a bit, Annabelle kept up a running commentary.  The commentary varied somewhat along the way but it had one common theme.  Something along the lines of “It is SO NICE to ride with people who know what they are doing for a change.”

Huh.

We rode and we rode.  There was no sign of the wild horses.  Well, except for the giant “stallion piles” that sporadically littered the trail we followed.

Pretty Girl

We circled around and finally we came to the top of the mesa, looking out over the entire valley below in a view I never get tired of.

View of the World

From the vantage point on top of our trusty steeds we saw the valley below.  We saw the massive feedlot that held thousands of cows.  We saw the clear blue sky crisscrossed by fluffy white airplane vapor trails.

We saw the road.  The road that would take us RIGHT BACK TO THE TRAILER. The road was RIGHT THERE.  So close I could almost touch it.

What we didn’t see were any wild horses.

I was cold.  Freckles was tired.  Grumpy was sweaty.  We had been riding for almost three hours.   Tomorrow was Monday, a school day.  I was ready to be done.

Annabelle was not.

Jim and Bob said we could turn east and expand our loop a little. It would increase our riding time, but there was one more draw where the horses might be.

I wanted to say no.  The road back to the trailer was RIGHT THERE.

But Annabelle answered for us.  “YES!  I am riding until we find the horses! You can go back to the truck and wait for me if you want mom, but I am not giving up!”  As unlikely as it sounds, I think she actually meant that…..she would totally have gone on without me.  As if I’d have let her.

I sighed.  Freckles sighed.  Grumpy sighed.  Christine smiled indulgently.

And we set off.  Annabelle rode further in front of us than ever, Reno trotting along tirelessly to keep up with the quick strides of Bob’s blazer, Lightning.  We rode through one draw and over the top of the next.  Inside I was bemoaning our decision to ride with strangers.  My legs hurt and I was worried I would cripple my irreplaceable show horse on this wild goose chase.

130

Suddenly, as the tiny-appearing riders crested a ridge in front of us Annabelle stopped.  She and Bob both pointed.  Then she looked down at where Christine and I slowly approached, Freckles and Grumpy picking carefully along the lava covered hillside.

And she raised her finger to her lips in the age-old symbol for quiet.  She waved her arms again to make sure we were looking, and said “quiet” again in sign language.

They had seen the horses.

As I crested the hill, I saw what they were looking at.  At first I saw only one horse.

First Horse

Then a few more sauntered over the far away ridge.

Pretty Blazes

We sat quietly, taking turns passing around field glasses for a closer look.  Well, actually Annabelle kept them the whole time.

Through the Glasses

The band of horses continued to grow, filing over the hill one-by-one, until they trailed across the hillside in a long line of mares and nearly-grown foals, followed at a watchful distance by the solid colored bay stallion.

Spread Out Herd

When they were all over the ridge, they stopped to look at us.

Hardtrigger Gang

We rode a little closer, but of course as we approached they moved further away.  Freckles and all the other horses were fascinated by the sight of them.

Herd Through Ears

All sense of being tired and cold left me as I marveled at the privileged site in front of us.  They were just brumbies, I knew, but there was something majestic about them too.

I just loved all those big white blazes.

All the White Faces (2)

After we watched the band for twenty minutes or so it was time to head back down toward the trucks.  We had almost an hour ride left to get back, and the darkness was inching toward us.

We peeled Annabelle away from the horses with some difficulty, and headed back down the hill.

The Long Way Down

A brisk breeze had picked up as the sun lowered in the sky, and it was getting really cold as we rode along.

But it had been worth it.

We pulled into home just as darkness fell.  Christine insisted on helping us to unload the horses and get them settled in before she left for her house.  We both had to sit and watch as Annabelle unloaded the horses from the trailer one-by-one, all by herself.

She is a goer, that one.

When we finally made it inside Desperate Hubby and Batman had prepared a feast of beef and elk tacos with rice-a-roni for dinner and had a big fire going in the fireplace.  It was heaven on earth.

The perfect end to a perfect day.

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

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