Conversations About Carrots

“Hey, Mom?”

“Yeah?”

“If one of our horses pooped…. If one of our horses pooped….. if one of them….”

“Take a breath, think about what you want to say, and try again.”

(Deep breath in, then out) “If one of our horses pooped gold, we could probably keep all four of them, huh?”

“Son, if one of our horses pooped gold, your dad would love horses more than we do, and we’d be able to keep as many as we wanted.  Also, when we mucked stalls the wheelbarrow would be very heavy.”

 

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“So I found a vet to give Carrots an ultrasound on Satur—”

“I WANT TO COME! I WANT TO COME! I WANT TO COME!”

“Shhh, let me finish.  Anyways, the vet will give her an ultrasound on Saturday, which will tell us for sure if Carrots is pregnant, and also let us maybe know how far along she is in the pregnancy, within a month or so.”

“I WANT TO COME!”

“Well, I would love to have you with me, but the thing is—”

“I WANT TO COME!”

“The thing is, it’s going to be a long car ride, and I’m going to spend it talking with Rose, so you’d have to sit in the back seat and not talk.  Also, when we got to the vet’s, you would have to be so quiet it would be as if you aren’t there.”

“I can do that!”

“You would have to be still and quiet and just listen, because I want to focus all of my attention on the veterinarian, and Carrots.”

“I can do that!”

“Also, it’s not like the ultrasounds I used to get when I was pregnant with the twins.”

“What do you mean?  They aren’t going to lay her down on a table?”

“No, they do it standing.  They will give her a sedative to make her feel sleepy and relaxed, and then the vet—“

“I know, I know, I know.  The vet puts lotion on her stomach and then puts the thing on it and slides it around and–”

“No, she doesn’t.  Now, would you quit interrupting me and let me finish?”

“Okay.  Sorry, Mom.”

“So, the vet does put lotion on, but what she does first is put on a reaaaalllly long rubber glove, probably all the way over her elbow, and then she puts lotion on top of the glove… and then she picks up Carrots’ tail and grabs the ultrasound wand and then she shoves that arm alllll the way up Carrot’s butthole, probably up to the elbow, and she’ll do the ultrasound that way.”

“WHAT?”

“Yup.”

“No.  I’m good. No, no, no, never mind.  I’m good.  I don’t need to be a part of that.  I think I’ll stay home.  I don’t need to be a part of that.”

“Yeah, that’s what I figured.”

 

Photo taken minutes apart – what a difference level ground, good angle, and better lighting can make! Also, the bad angle shows why I’m working so hard to get more calories into her. I invested in some Horse guard weight gain and alfalfa pellets that I will soak in addition to the rice bran.  She seems to have less appetite – which would make sense if she really is pregnant. Let’s hear it for answers on Saturday!  Also, this is a really long photo caption.  I probably should make it its own paragraph, but I’m much too lazy for that. 

 

 

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1+1+1= 4? I think?

About six weeks ago I had to call it quits.

I am a huge believer in unlimited grass hay and salt blocks as a feeding regimen, with a little extra vitamins to top up and make a horse’s coat shiny. You may not get the same well-balanced, non-hay belly look that alfalfa gives horses, but for what I use my horses for, grass hay is perfect.  They seem so content to just nibble all day long, and it keeps them nice and round.

Oh, sure. They’d have better muscle tone and look prettier on Alfalfa, I’m not negating that truth… But it seems unfair to pump them up with that much high energy feed and then expect them to be calm and non-reactive around my squirrelly kids.

Besides, grass hay keeps them fat and round and happy….

Until Carrots.

This is not a fat and shiny pony 🙁

 

About six weeks ago, I had to call my grass hay feeding plan a failure. When she arrived back in early February, beneath the two to three inches of winter coat she had, Carrots was somewhere between a two and a three on the Henneke scale.

Three weeks into refeeding. I didn’t post a lot of pictures of her before, because I actually think her old owner was a bit clueless more than deliberately not feeding her enough and I didn’t want to set the Internet Angries on her.  Shes’ much thinner than she looks, because her winter coat was UNBELIEVABLY long and dense.

She gained steadily for quite a while, and then somewhere around late April she began leveling out. Oh, sure, she looked tons better than she did when she arrived in February, but she still looked crappy. Her coat wasn’t very shiny, except in a couple of places, even after she shed out. Worse, I was beginning to see ribs again. We were sliding back instead of moving forward in the weight department.

It was irritating, because Caspian was gaining almost too much weight with the amount of hay I threw out. Shouldn’t ponies be air ferns, not hard keepers? Caspian weighs around 1300 pounds and eats more than any horse I’ve ever encountered, in order to keep his weight up.  Carrots is maybe 550.

Still, pictures don’t lie. She looked like crap. Some angles she didn’t look too bad…

but from other angles………

So, I started supplementing, and the weight started coming back.

I also started hand grazing her and that helped even more. We haven’t finished fencing our property, so alas, no pasture turnout. The weight continued to come back, and I was content.

Only…only it seemed ridiculous, the amount of food I was feeding her vs. the amount I was feeding Caspian, a horse literally more than double her weight.

I began to worry…did she have Cushings? Was she worm resistant? Why was she needing so many calories? It was bothersome enough that I called the vet. Besides, it was time to float Caspian’s teeth anyways.

I laid it all out before the vet, and eventually voiced my biggest fear: did she look pregnant to him?

I mean, when you get a mare off Craigslist, you never know what you are gonna get.

He looked her over some, and said based on her history, probably not. She was probably just wormy and I could step up my worming regimen…. but you can never tell. The problem was that she was too small to palpate, which left only blood tests to the tune of $150 bucks.

I stood there and stared at Carrots for the longest time. I didn’t have a lot to go on.  She was probably just wormy, and a couple of back to back worming treatments in a row would take care of that.  Money was tight.  I had no proof other than a bloated-looking belly on a horse that had arrived incredibly wormy, and who also had a tendency towards being a hard keeper.  Maybe I hadn’t ever seen her go into season in around Caspian, but maybe she was just calm when in season?  $150 for peace of mind to make a niggling suspicion go away was not a cheap price tag.

“So, let’s say I just ignore it and let things go on like they are. If she has a foal in the same paddock as Caspian, what would happen?”

We both turned to stare at Caspian was standing placidly beside her, lazily swishing his tail at flies.

“Well, since he was gelded late, he had all those stallion hormones in his body at some point…. he might stomp it.”

I love my vet. There’s something so refreshing about straightforward honesty. He said it so matter of fact, with no push in his voice.  If I didn’t want to do the blood test, that was totally fine by him. He understood.

On the other hand, if I tried to save $150 and came out one morning to a stomped foal, I’d never forgive myself. Ever.

“Let’s run the blood test.”

And so he did. He gave me an updated worming schedule, some feeding recommendations, and life went back to normal.

Until this afternoon:

In case you can’t tell, when testing a horse for the pregnancy hormone estradiol, a normal mare will have a value of under 20. A pregnant mare beyond 100 days will have a value of 50-400.

Carrots has a value of 101.

I admit, I still can’t decide if I am surprised or not. I was definitely shocked when I got the email, there’s no doubt about that. When my phone pinged me, letting me know I had an email, I was sitting at my desk job.  I try not to read personal email while on the job, but the sender was from my vet, and who can ignore an email like that? When I opened it up to read “Give me a call in about an hour, I would say that Carrots is pregnant.”, I was so caught up in the moment I didn’t even realize I said “OH SH*T” out loud until my coworkers burst out laughing and asked me what was wrong.

So, yeah.  I was shocked….but I don’t know if I was surprised. I’ve been suspicious about so many little things going on with her, even if I haven’t really admitted it out loud.

I can tell how suspicious I have been on the inside by how many “from-the-front” and “from-the-back” photos I have taken of Carrots over last 2-3 months, now that I’ve gone back searching for them. I had convinced myself out loud that my suspicions were all in my head, but judging from the sheer amount of photos I took to compare and contrast, I think I knew deep inside.

So Carrots is definitely pregnant…..

I think?

It just seems like such a low value for how far along she probably is. The vet kind of agreed and is doing some more research on it. I suppose it’s possible she slipped the foal, but…

Here’s a view from behind with a five-week difference.

She’s bigger, and she’s dropped….I think?  You can really only see the pregnancy from the front and the back – from the side, she just looks a little overfed, which is not the case. I still think she needs a little more weight. If you discount the bloated belly, she’s barely normal.

She hasn’t bagged up at all, nor have her tail ligaments gone soft, but with a maiden mare that might not mean anything.

Her vulva appears unchanged, which is code for “Becky spends an ungodly amount of time each day lifting up her poor pony’s tail and staring at horse vagina, and good heavens, what must the neighbors think?”

So it doesn’t look like she’s going to be giving birth any time soon… but then again, if she’s a maiden mare, who knows if she would give any of these signs? As I have nothing else to go on, I’ve decided that she probably started hitting that big foal growth spurt that happens in the third trimester some time around May, since that’s when she started becoming a “hard keeper”.

 

I have no idea when (if?  I really wish her numbers were higher so I felt more secure in her pregnancy) she would be due, so I decided to start treating her like she’s due today. I popped the center divider out in the stalls, giving her a 12×24 run.

It’s a little frustrating to have to go back to cleaning a stall and buying shavings every day when the sun is out and there’s a 100×50 paddock 20 feet away, but better safe than sorry. Today or tomorrow I’ll pick up more shavings and some more alfalfa – our lovely grass hay we just stocked the barn with has tons of fescue, which is awful for pregnant mares.

I admit, I don’t know entirely how I feel about this new turn of events. If it was someone else, I’d be THRILLED!!!! How adorable! Two for the price of one!  The little Welsh pony mare we got for a song is going to give birth to the world’s most adorable, tiny foal!……

But.

But it’s my bank account taking the hit. As much as is possible, I try to have 100% of all things equine-related come out of my paycheck… a paycheck which is nonexistent during the summer months, with four kids in full-time daycare. We just bought the posts to section off part of our pasture area (my birthday present was going to be a grazing paddock for the horses), but now that project is on indefinite hold.  I need to spend money on horse supplements.  I need to buy fancy hay.  I need to save up for an expensive vet visit, because who knows what will happen around the birthing time. So the pasture project is put on hold, and so is the writing conference I was going to attend in August, and so is pretty much everything, until we’re past her giving birth.

If she gives birth?  I did manage to get ahold of the old owner, and she said the only time Carrots was out of her care was when she was boarded January through May of 2017.  She has cyclone fencing and Carrots didn’t share the pasture with anyone except goats, and she never escaped.

So is she pregnant?

I’m also feeling nervous about the issue of space.  It’s dry and easy to house horses right now, but that rain will start coming back in mid October, and as it is I barely have my area set up to work for three horses, and now I’m potentially going to have four. If we lived somewhere less rainy I could just fence off the pasture and let both babies grow up as nature intended, in a herd setting with room to run.  Unfortunately, even if we fenced off the entire acre and blanketed against rain rot, with four horses running around it during the rainy season, it would be a sea of mud in no time at all.

Right now I’m leaning towards leveling the area in front of the barn and seeing if I can find a couple more gate panels.  I have three gate panels already, with a shelter logic cover over it for shade in their paddock area. I could get one more gate panel and spend a little more and get the side covers for it, and it would make a great rain proof stall for Carrots and her foal….

 

Product

I cannot recommend this setup highly enough.

But is a 12×12 stall too small for a pony and her foal to live in during the winter, when I have limited turnout?  Would it be cruel? Do I need to try to spring and try to make it 12×24? I wish I could find used gate panels, but everyone around here hoards them, and I keep having to buy new.

Also, I have the energy now, but what is it going to be like once the grey and rain returns and depression sets in again? Mucking four stalls daily while also trying to care of four kids while also working a full-time job sounds exhausting.  Also, four farrier visits, four horse mouths to feed….

Gulp.

But then again, this is exactly how I felt about having twins. I could only see the negative, not the positives, until I met them.  And also, what’s the alternative?  I don’t want to sell Carrots.  She’s perfect for our family, and I love her personality, and the kids love her.

I’m sure I could easily find someone to foal them out for me, but I’m also pretty sure my kids would never forgive me.  They’ve already promised to muck every single day and feed every single day and do whatever it takes.  Of course, they’re only 7 and 9, so who knows how long those promises will last, but still.  They would be devastated. Also, if I’m honest, I’d be sad to miss out on the chance to have a little foal on my property.

I need to remember it’s not just work and double drudgery and empty bank accounts, and that I’ll wean and hopefully sell the foal at five months.  I will only have four horses for less than half a year, and a cute half a year at that.

And also…. her estradiol value was only 101. Why so low?  What does it mean? I’m going to make a call in to some equine reproductive specialists in Portland and see if they think bringing her in for an ultrasound would work.  My vet said belly ultrasounds were hit or miss sometimes, and she’s so small that a rectal ultrasound, which is the normal method, would be verypainful for her.  I don’t want to traumatize her like that.

And so, I wait and see what might happen. I may or may not have four horses. The boys are over the moon. My bank account is not over the moon, and neither is Bean.

My friend pointed out that I now have a “history” of asking for one baby and getting two.

Reverie is two months old now, and shedding out to my favorite color, liver chestnut. She’s so perfect it makes my heart hurt.  Her personality is everything I love in a horse, and so is her conformation and color.

I’m not sure how I feel about this new superpower. I’d much rather have the ability to try to put away one load of laundry and accidentally put away two. How neat would that be?

So, Carrots – who were you naughty with? How did you manage it? When did you manage it?  What is hiding in that belly of yours, and how long do we have to wait to meet it?

Last week’s “Man, that’s a big belly for a non-pregnant horse, and why am I still seeing ribs?!” photo

Picture from yesterday evening-  both the pregnancy and the ribs are not very visible when viewed from the sides.

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I Hate Caffeine

5:45pm: I can totally drink this Dr. Pepper. I had a long day at work, and now I have to drive to Portland and back. If I’m not sleepy when I get home, I’ll just use the time wisely and get some writing done.

9:03 pm: Huh. I guess I’m sleepy after all. Yay! Bedtime!

11:17pm: I feel like the middle part of my thirties we’re all taken up with being pregnant and getting the twins to an age where I can go out in public again. It’s kind of sad… My early thirties felt like “Wait, I’m not in my twenties anymore”, and now I feel like I’m “almost in my forties”, so I feel like I missed my thirties. I guess it’s not too late. I should be more in the present. I don’t have to give up just yet. I still have time to make my thirties a decade of memories beyond “momming”…..

But my neck feels old, when I pinch it. Eww. Neck folds. Is my neck old looking? Wait, who cares? How self-absorbed is that? Refugees and war and dying kids and I’m over here wondering about my neck….. But still. I wonder if it looks as old as it feels? When was the last time I looked at my neck in the mirror? I shouldn’t care, but I’ve been waiting to fall asleep for over two hours. Now I feel like I have too much skin on my neck. Am I obsessing or has it always been there? I’m being weird. I should quit pinching my neck flab.

I wish I could go to sleep. Wow, it’s dark in my bedroom. What phase is the moon in? Do I have the same night vision out of both eyes? I should test it. Left eye. Right eye. Left eye. Right eye. Both eyes at once!

Oooh, if I squeeze my eyes shut really hard, I get the neat blue colors. Why are they blue circles when I squeeze my eyes shut, but blue lines when I press? Are they blue for everyone? I should Google that. Wait, if I press really hard, I can make a blue cube behind my closed eyelid, instead of a blue circle! Oh. I wonder if this is bad for my eyes? I should stop, before I make myself go blind. Wouldn’t that be a stupid call to the paramedics?

“911, what is your emergency?”

“I need to go to the hospital because I pushed on my eyes so hard I made myself go blind. No, quit laughing and send an ambulance.”

I wonder if any of my favorite authors have any new books out? Eh. I can’t afford them anyway. I should have started saving for Reverie the second I decided to ask Kathleen to breed Sparkle. I could be reading a good book right now.

My tongue feels too big for my mouth. Great. Now I can’t figure out where my tongue is supposed to go. It feels all wadded up in my teeth… I don’t remember having to think about this so hard before. Wasn’t there an XKCD about this? I think there was.

The Bean is snoring. I wish I were snoring. I wish I could make my brain shut up. I have to up in six hours. Guess this is a sign I’m well rested? When the twins were just born, no amount of caffeine could keep me up.

I shouldn’t have had that Dr.Pepper. Also, I wish my brain would shut up. Do other people think so loud? Why does caffeine make me think in full sentences? Can I make my brain voice have a British accent? Hello, would you like a spot of tea? Wow, that was awful. Maybe I just need to try harder? Blimey! Crikey! Spot of tea. Crumpet. Go to the loo…. Yeah, I should give up. My brain voice can’t do accents.

Man, I’m bored. I could give up on sleep and fire up the laptop to work on my book, but then what if I’m up all night? I guess I’ll just go back to pinching my neck folds again.

Never. Again. Never, ever, ever, ever again.

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Herbert Brings Me Dinner

Edit: I wrote this a couple of days ago and never proofed and posted it. By the time we made it to the store for cat food, the tally was up to three baby squirrels.

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Herbert tried to feed me today.

Actually, hold on. I just checked my archives and I don’t think I have introduced Herbert before.

Back in August of last year, Coyote disappeared. I know it was probably, well, his namesake that got him. I try not to think about it too much. He was my last tie to my Grandma, and knowing he was gone hurts.

Life puttered along in our catless household for awhile. I thought of getting a cat to replace him- the Bean is NOT a dog person. At all. He likes cats. It’d be more of an issue between us, but I like cats too.

Plus, we live on a farm. I don’t like the idea of a farm without a cat to keep the mice population down. It almost makes me feel like I should consider being a better housekeeper, so as to dissuade the rodents from moving in.

Pffft, like that will happen. It’s just so much easier to get a cat.

Still, the moment never seemed right, so I had the idea of another cat on the back burner…..

Until November, when Herbert moved in.

Herbert is a character.

He showed up in one icy day, in the middle of an early November cold snap. I was working a shift at the library, and when I came home both boys met me at the door, tripping over each other and their words in order to get the news out.

“THERE’S A CAT! THERE’S A CAT! DAD SAYS WE CAN’T TOUCH HIM, BUT HE’S SUPER NICE AND HE LETS US PET HIM ALL OVER!”

I went outside to see what they were talking about, and there was a friendly tuxedo tomcat- neutered, shiny, fat.

“Guys, he’s probably got home. This is a tame cat.” I reached down to pet him, and he leaned into my hand, purring. His ear was notched, so it was possible he was neutered through a feral cat program, but no feral cat was this relaxed around hyper kids.

“We can feed him since it’s so cold, but he has a home. He’s not ours.”

I set out a can of tuna and took a couple of pictures and posted them online, fully expecting to find his owners.

Instead, the next day, there was only silence online…. And a cat circling outside my side door, staring patiently at us. I fed him tuna again and put down an old blanket- the highs were barely in the thirties during the day. Even if he had another home and a thick, healthy coat, even if he was only visiting us for the tuna, he deserved a warm place to put his cold toes.

Day three rolled around, and there was Herbert, good naturedly rubbing up against my hand. Curious, I locked away Artemis and opened the sliding glass door…. And he sauntered in without a trace of nervousness, sniffed around a bit, and settled on the back of the couch.

You could almost hear him say out loud, “Nice place. Great view, warm heater…. Yeah. I live here now.”

He didn’t even bat an eye when I brought out Artemis, either.

After that, he was home. I figure if a cat chooses to stick around a house that has four screaming kids and all the constant bedlam that’s perpetually going on, then he’s welcome to move in.

He’s an odd cat. Mellow, big boned, also “big boned” (read: fat), he has giant white paws, an incredibly loud purr, and likes to comfort nurse on blankets to put himself to sleep.

That sounds like an adorable habit until you’ve lived with it. You go to sleep with a purring cat next to you, roll over an hour later, and there’s a giant wet spot on the blanket.

Eww.

It was particularly irritating when I was trying to wean the twins. Magpie would be whimpering in her sleep on one side, Finn would be crying “Leche! Leche!” on the other as he begged to use me as a pacifier… then along would come a cat to suck on the blanket around my waist.

There is a limit to the amount of groping mouths I allow in my bed at one time: Herbert was definitely one too many.

Also, he’s one of those cats that has no regard for what he steps on. Some cats mince delicately when they walk across a bed, stepping lightly, almost apologetic as they have to move over you.

Some cats do that, but not Herbert. If Herbert wants to get from point A to point B on the need, then that’s what he does. He walks there in a straight line, from point A to Point B, no matter how many sleeping bodies are in between him and his destination.

Wait, did I say he walks? I meant he tromps. In hiking boots.

I you think I’m exaggerating, you try being woken up out of a deep sleep by 15 pound cat stomping across you because the blanket on the other side of you would obviously be a lot more delicious to suck on.

If it sounds like I don’t like him, that’s not the case. He’s a great kitty. He’s affectionate, and he’s patient with the kids.

He doesn’t pee in the house, he’s doesn’t meow incessantly, he has a nice purr, and he makes a great lap cat. He’s just a nice old soul.

Plus, he’s smart. I’ve owned a lot of cats, and Herbert may very well be the smartest I’ve ever been around. There’s a lot going on behind those large yellow eyes of his.

That brings me to today.

Three days ago we ran out of cat food, and neither the Bean nor I have been able to make it to the store to pick some up. I’d feel guilty, but we have a large stockpile of tuna at the moment, so I figured Herbert wouldn’t mind.

And then, today, Herbert came home with a half-grown baby squirrel. We were all in the backyard, visiting with some friends, when Herbert came stalking over from the neighbor’s yard. He was walking oddly, and it took me a moment to realize it was because he was holding his head up high, not looking down, jaws firmly shut over the neck of a half grown squirrel.

I ushered the boys away from him, and warned them against getting too near. Herbert is a large cat, and there have been one or two times when he’s lost patience with one of the kids. The moments are rare and have only happened once or twice, but he has reached out and smacked one of the kids before, one time even leaving a little blood behind with his scratch.

He wasn’t looking sggressive, but most cats tend to get a little possessive of their kills, so I herded the kids away from him as he walked towards the house.

Except….except he changed course and walked right towards us. He came within about ten feet, and then carefully laid the squirrel down, and lay beside it, looking at me.

I looked at Herbert.

Herbert looked at me, and then at the baby squirrel, and then back at me.

I looked at Herbert.

Herbert gave a soft meow.

Speaking of meowing- I’ve never been able to look at cats the same way ever since I read something about how adult cats in the wild don’t meow. They may yowl, or purr, or screech and scream during a fight…. But for the most part they are silent, and once they are out of kitten hood they definitely don’t meow.

So why do domesticated cats meow?

They meow because they are, quite simply, baby talking us. We are too dense to understand other forms of communication, so they have to baby talk us.

So Herbert meowed, and I stared at him, and he meowed again.

I continued watching him, keeping the kids from drawing best, curious to see what he was going to do with the squirrel. With with a disgusted look, he sat up, stared hard at me, and then jiggled the squirrel a couple of times with a velvet paw.

The squirrel sucked in a dying gasp of air, and twitched.

Herbert stared at me hard, obviously slightly annoyed with how dense the humans in his life were.

I walked closer.

Herbert gave an approving meow, nudged the mostly-dead squirrel a couple of more times to keep me interested, and then stalked off towards the house. His duty was complete. If I wasn’t bright enough to figure dinner out from there, well, that was my own problem.

I’ve never had a cat bring me dinner before. As touching as it was….Hey, Bean? We really need to pick up some cat food tomorrow. The cat is worried for us.

Also, there’s a dead squirrel still under the red tree in the backyard. I forgot to dispose of it. Whoops.

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Scandias Marvelous Reverie at Three Weeks

Three days.  Three weeks.  Three years.

Wait.  Is it three days, three weeks, three months?  Then three years?

Okay, I can’t remember if months is supposed to be in there.  I suppose I could look it up, but I’ve got an awful cold at the moment.  How awful of a cold is it?

It’s bad enough I keep trying to read a book while I’m laying all sprawled and sickly on the couch, but the words are too… wordy.

It’s bad enough that I sent myself home today from work at 3, after someone called in and asked for the number to the library and I gave her my personal cell phone number instead. I remembered in time, but just barely.  I hope she doesn’t try calling the first number I gave her, out of curiosity.

Blech.  The weather is too nice to feel this sick.

Anyways, the basic idea, for those who haven’t heard it before, is that you are supposed to pay attention a foal’s conformation at three: three days, three weeks, three months(?) and then three years(?), because it will be proportionate to what they’ll look like all grown up.   In between you don’t really pay attention, because they go through weird growth spurts, kind of like human kids do in junior high.

Wait…. I’m not sure three years is right.  Three years is pretty much all grown up, so of course you would pay attention to what a horse is built like by that point? Oh, forget it.  I’m too sick for all this math and thinking.

Here are some pictures of Reverie at three weeks old.  Enjoy.  I know I did.

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Reverie

Ugh, I skipped doing errands at lunch to write my blog post. My plan was that when nighttime came I would only have to do a little editing on it before spending the majority of my pre-bed writing time working on my book….

And the computer ate it. It didn’t save.

So, I guess, I’ll try writing this blog post again.

I’m gonna do it with a grumpy mood though. So THERE.

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Second Update:

Literally three times I have been finished with this post, and then I try to add one last picture from my phone onto the WordPress app, and it adds it…. but then when I open it up on my computer (because I can type faster than on my phone), I find it has added the new picture as well as reverted to an older version of my blog post.

I’ve literally typed this dumb blog post four times. At this point the words don’t even seem like real words. Computers hate me today. I’m going to hit publish the second I’ve finished and stomp off to bed.

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I have enough names to fill a whole barn of Morgan Horses.

I can’t believe how good some of you are at names – every time I thought I was done adding names to my shortlist, in would come another one. The response to the poll was amazing – a million thank you’s.

There were quite a few names that I loved that didn’t quite fit her. I loved the idea of naming her Chimera, because of its definition, and because of her two different colored eyes. I also liked Gargoyle (sorry, Aarene, I thought that was an awesome name) and Kelpie, and a bunch of the suggested names. I find I’m especially drawn to mythological names, and there are so many good ones out there.

There was only one problem:

Look at that. That’s a sweet, sweet face.

That’s a friendly face.

That’s the kind of face that likes you to go in the barn at night and hang out while you read a book so she can wuffle your sleeve.

All the names I really liked were just not her – they were too hard sounding, and she is not a hard horse.

I thought maybe it was because was so young, but Scandia Morgan Horse Farm had a second foal last Saturday – another chestnut colt. I guess it was just the year of the red foal for them?

Anyways, he’s an absolute beauty, and his mother is also drop dead gorgeous, but that’s to be expected at this barn. I went to go see him, and was amazed at how different their personalities already were. He wasn’t bad by any stretch of the imagination – he was just into everything with a friendly curiosity, and already had a devilish little sense of humor.

You could actually see him trying to decide. It was like watching the world’s tallest redheaded toddler. “Should I be good?……I should. I really shouldn’t nibble on her sleeve. She told me no. I shouldn’t……… yeah, no, I’m gonna try it. I just need to see what’ll happen.”

It made me doubly glad this little girl came out a filly. I always thought that colts didn’t start acting like colts until they were a little older, but apparently they’re colts right from the very start.

So, yeah. This little girl is flashy, but she’s also just really sweet, and for all that I kept trying to hang flashy names on her, they just weren’t fitting.

It’s a little disconcerting when a 5 day old horse is better at taking selfies than you are.

I thought about it for a while, about telling which were the other names that I almost picked for her, but I decided against it. There’s a reason for that. After I told the Squid what I was going to name the filly, he looked horrified. “No. No, that’s not right. That’s not a good name. We need to find another one.”

When I finally told him he didn’t have a choice, he looked disgusted, with all the deep-seated, honest judginess a 7-year-old can muster.

So far DragonMonkey seems to love horses the most out of all my kids.

I realized that if I started listing my second place, and third place, and fourth place names, then people might start commenting how I should have named her such-and-such instead, and I’m just still too sensitive to shrug it off.

I know, laugh all you want, but let’s see you get your dream after 30 years of daydreaming about it, and see if you aren’t overly protective those first few weeks.

She’d just spooked at the sound of the hose water hitting the bucket by her head – but even though she looks nervous, I feel like I can really see what she’s going to look like as an adult in this picture.

It’s really, really hard to take a selfie with her, because she’s already getting so friendly. Also, I’m beginning to realize the world is firmly divided into two camps: those that love blue eyes, and those that find them creepy.

Anyways, as you can tell from the title, I’m going to call her Reverie. Scandias Marvelous Reverie.

rev·er·ie
ˈrev(ə)rē/
noun
    1. a state of being pleasantly lost in one’s thoughts; a daydream.
      “a knock on the door broke her reverie”
      synonyms: daydream, daydreaming, trance, musing;
      • MUSIC
        an instrumental piece suggesting a dreamy or musing state.
  1. archaic: a fanciful or impractical idea or theory.

And now I own one.

I know it seems like I’m obsessing a little bit, and I am. It’s just… I’m planning on owning Reverie until I’m in my mid to late 60s.

That’s a long time… and I’ve been waiting for a horse like this for decades. She’s not even a week old yet – the world can let me be infatuated for a little while longer. She’s only going to be this little and fresh once.

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Worth the Wait…AKA Help Me Name This Foal

Yesterday morning was awful. I didn’t get to bed on time, had nightmares all night, and woke up exhausted and grumpy.

I compounded things by picking a passive aggressive fight with The Bean, and “won” by almost making the boys miss their bus to school.

Yaaaaaay!!!…….. I think?

I couldn’t find the shirt I wanted to wear, and had to settle for the one that makes me feel frumpy.

I was late, and pissy, and frumpy, and grumpy and….. and then I checked my phone, and saw I had a missed call from an unknown number. I checked the voicemail transcript (is that not the best invention EVER?), and stopped dead:

“Hi, Becky Bean, your baby was born this morning.  You have a filly.  I sent you some texts.  Bye.”

Starting around day 335 or so (around April 15th), I began obsessively checking my phone for texts from Kathleen. The average horse birth happens around day 342.  There’s a wide window, of course, and it’s not unusual to have them go past a year, but this wasn’t Sparkle’s first foal and she’d given birth relatively on time last time, and had bagged up well in advance.

I remember one evening, the evening of the “Four” post, I shooed The Bean off to bed ahead of me.”I know, I know,” I said. “I want to go to bed too, but… but I really need to get this post out.  Who knows? This horse could be born tonight, and then it’d be too late to announce it ahead of time.”

Yeah.  It didn’t happen that night.  Or on day 330.  Or on day 340.

Day 342, the official “this is what’s average” day came and went.

So did day 345.

And day 350.

And day 355.

And day 356.  And day 357.

Eventually I started a daily habit.  On my break at work I would Google “mare still pregnant at day 358” or “mare still pregnant at day 359” and read forums with fellow anxious waiters, doing my best to ignore the posters who admitted that their mare had waited until day 380 to give birth… or  that had some mares giving birth on day 385, or even day 400+.

Somewhere along the way (don’t ask me why) I had decided that she would give birth in the middle of the night.  I would check the phone several times through the night, but once no news of a baby was there by the time I was headed to work, I figured my chances were done for the day.  And so, after I checked my phone that morning, on day 360, I completely dismissed the possibility of a foal and went on with my day.  That was why Kathleen’s call came as such a complete shock.

I hate to be cliché, but as soon as I saw that, I had that “and then her heart leaped into her throat with excitement” moment. I literally felt my heart give a strange squeeze, and I got all choked up.

Until that moment I didn’t even realize how much I wanted a filly, not until I saw it in black and white and felt that giant surge of joy.

I didn’t see the notification for any new texts, but I optimistically opened my text messages anyways….and nothing. No pics.  I reopened it.  I turned my phone off and on again.

Nada.

I called Kathleen and got her voicemail.

I sat, pulled over on the side of the road in my idling minivan, and thought very seriously about calling in sick to work.

Only that would be wrong.

Only I had a filly. A filly!

Only I wasn’t sick, so that would be a lie.

Only, only, only there were no pics! I had a filly, and I had no idea what she even looked like!  Dark bay?  Light bay?  Star?  Socks? Scandia Morgan Horse Farm was literally less than three miles away from where my van sat. I could be there in under thirty minutes, even with dropping off the twins at daycare. I would be able to see her little wet foal coat, all swirly with dampness from just being born.

But…. But it would be wrong, and not nice to my coworkers. I work for a small town, and there just isn’t a lot of people in the City Hall office.  The absence of one person is felt dearly.

But I had a FILLY.  And there were NO PICS.

But… but if I went and saw her I wouldn’t be able post any pics or say anything on social media. I mean, you can’t say, “Ugh, cough cough, I’m siiiick….” And then start posting pics of your visit to a horse farm an hour later. I’d have to wait until Friday to post anything, and sitting on this giant news for more than a day would kill me.

I went on Facebook messenger and was relieved to find the following details:

“Filly born. Looks like Marvelous side of pedigree. Three whites, white face. Red head.”

I sat there in my van and read the lines over and over again, while Magpie and Finn babbled at me from the backseat.

I…. I had a chestnut filly. How was that possible? I had figured, long since, that I was getting a bay colt. Colts take longer in the oven and Sparkle had definitely baked this foal really well, and we had bred a bay horse to bay horse.

And now I had not only a filly, but my all time favorite color: chestnut.

Knowing the description gave me the strength to do the right thing, so I shot back a message letting her know I hadn’t received any pictures and then headed off to work.  Meanwhile, Kathleen went inside to check on why the photos hadn’t gone through (they’d accidentally gone to some other lucky Becky in her phone book.)

I dropped off the twins and pulled into the work parking lot, opened FB messenger…. And there they were:

I’ve always loved Sparkle’s ears, and this filly has these same elegant, expressive ears.

I sat there and just stared. She said white face, but I’d just figured she meant she a nice little blaze, not anything like that.  That was just amazing.  It was so unbelievably unique.  That was….

I zoomed in on the last headshot. Was that….

Was that a blue eye?!

I texted Kathleen back who said it’d be best to wait a day or two before making any final decisions on the eye, but that she was a big filly, and should be easy like her mom since she favored the Intrigue side so much.

I sat there in my van until I was actually a few minutes late for work, completely stunned.

I had a big, chestnut, tons of white, possibly splash gene filly with at least one blue eye.

It was like I’d ordered her from a catalog.

I had done my best not to hope for one thing over the other. I didn’t want to be disappointed in any way when the foal came.  If I didn’t psyche myself up hoping for a filly over a colt, or for a chestnut when there was such a small percentage chance of a chestnut, then end I wouldn’t end up secretly disappointed if it came out anything other than “my favorite”.  Color wasn’t important – the foal was going to be amazing no matter what.

But this?

I feel like I just won the horse lottery. What were the chances? What were the chances that I’d pick an in utero foal and get literally every single thing I’ve ever liked in a horse?

I skipped into work on a cloud and began what was literally the longest day of work of my life. I’m sure it was a long day for my coworkers as well, who had to listen in on my excited gushing over, and over, and over. I felt a little bad for them, but not bad enough to stop. I told everyone. I mean, EVERYONE. I felt like a first time mom. I had a baby! I had a baby! It’s a girl! Can you believe it? A great big redheaded girl!  

The hours crept by. I couldn’t even sneak away to see her on lunch, because I had to pay the farrier (Jupiter leaves to his amazing new home this week and desperately needed his hooves trimmed before he left.)

I got one more pic during the day:

But that was it.  It was awful.  The day crawled by, oozing along at a slug’s pace.  I thought it would never end, but eventually it did.  The second that five o’clock hour rolled around, I was out that door and off to meet her.

Kathleen met me near my car, and together we went to the foaling barn.  Sparkle was a gem – hands down the nicest new-mom mare I’ve ever been around. Aside from one half-hearted ear pinning before she sniffed my hand, she was a total doll about letting me into the stall, standing kindly and patiently and letting her filly approach us and snuffle us all over. I’ve never been able to scratch such a young foal to my heart’s content.

After a little bit Kathleen went back inside, both to fix her dinner as well as just let me sit in the stall and get to know…. Little Miss No-Name. So that’s what I did.  I sat in the stall, took pictures, and scratched on my newborn filly.  I know I’m completely biased, but she was just so nice.  She wasn’t wary or pushy, and she genuinely seemed to like people.  She kept approaching and softly sniffing me, and grooming me back whenever I scratched her neck.

I got groomed by a 12 hour old foal, y’all.  Yesterday was definitely one of those days that you hold close to your heart, and pull out to remember and soothe yourself with when times get dark.

I think I’m going to frame this for my wall. That blue eye. Those eyelashes. <3

 

Kneeling in work clothes in a horse stall, deliriously happy. Also, see how her blaze is almost a mask? She is  completely brown on the underside of her head.  If she was a colt I might name her Phantom, because it reminds me of his mask.

Little bitty foal tail

I was so enthralled with her little face I didn’t get too many body shots.

Holy crap. That’s not some fancy foal on Pinterest. That’s MY horse.

That newborn pink lid will darken as she’s older. It’s like the pin paw pads of a puppy.  Take pics quick, before it’s gone.

Milk bar!

Okay, I may have been a little obsessed with that blue eye.

Those whiskers. Also, those ears – I know she looks half mule in this photo, but in real life they’re long and shapely, and remind me of Sparkle’s ears.

I can’t get enough of her little newborn foal beard.

One blue eye, one brown eye, one pink muzzle

OMG, Becky, look at that butt. (I was not clever enough to come up with this on my own – credit to Trisha C.)

I’d like to say that seeing her made me automatically know what her name should be, but instead it made it harder.  Oh, sure, I was able to get rid of almost all the names I had on my list… but now I have a new list.

I fall in love with one name, and then after I sit thinking about it for a few hours, I start second guessing them.  I latched onto Fantasy for a few hours.  It was perfect – easy to say, sounded kind of feminine but not too girly, encapsulated how I felt about her (the horse I’ve been dreaming of pretty much all my life), but then started wondering if I start talking about my Fantasy, if people are gonna wonder if I’m daydreaming about dirty things out loud.  Does it sound bad?  I can’t tell – I’ve really overthought it at this point.  FairyBramble is still an option, but I’m  sure if it was the one.  Allegria means happiness in Spanish… or maybe I could call her Soprano, because she makes my heart sing, high and sweet…..

The Bean wants me to call her Negative Amortization, since she’ll just get more valuable over time.

I told him I am not naming my heart horse Negative Amortization, and to quit being such an accountant.

And then I heard the word “heart horse” come out of my mouth and I was all “OMG, I’m gonna name her Heartsong like on that one penguin cartoon!”… and then I remembered that Scandia Morgans already had a Heartsong.

I thought of naming her Sonnet – it was the name I always wanted to name a horse, since FOREVER…. but I already had one horse named Sonnet, if only for a month or three.  It seemed wrong to reuse it.  Except… except I only had that horse for three months, almost 20 years ago.  Is it wrong to reuse names?  Bad luck?  Mean? I don’t know the rules.

The Bean suggested another name – Singularity (actually, he brought up Quantum Singularity, but I just liked the Singularity portion of it.)  We could call her Rarity for short, which would be perfect, and rolls off the tongue so wonderfully… except Rarity is also the name of a My Little Pony.  I mean, not that there’s anything wrong with that, but still.

As I chewed over that, The Bean continued coming up with more names:  Event Horizon (Horizon was already on my list), Dark Matter, Einstein’s Action At a Distance….

No, Bean.  I am not naming my filly Einstein Action At A Distance any more than I’m naming her little Negative Amortization. Thank you for your suggestions, though.

Speaking of suggestions….. Look, I can’t promise I’m going to pick the name that wins this poll (the internet has taught me never to promise that, lest I end up with a horse called Horsey MsHorseFace, or worse)…. but I wouldn’t mind a little more feedback.

Do any of these names strike you as awesome?  If not, do you have any suggestions?  Please vote – this may be the most #FirstWorldProblem I’ve ever had in my entire life, but I feel overwhelmed trying to name this gorgeous little filly, with her unique masque and her blue eye and her awesomeness.

If you don’t like any of my ideas, there should be a space for “Other” where you can input your own name.  Keep in mind that her complete name can’t exceed 25 spaces, and eight of those spaces will be taken up by Scandia (with a space after it.)

So…. seriously.  Help me.  If I figured out all the behind the scenes stuff right, there should be a poll right below this:

UPDATE:  It worked!  Also, if you input your suggestion under “Other”, there’s the complicated way of me approving them, so I’ll mostly be listing them in batches. They’ll show up eventually, though….. I hope 😛

SECOND UPDATE:  I am really struggling with it showing me “Other”.  If you entered an “Other” name, can you also add it in a comment?  I’m trying to add all the “Other” names into the poll.

 

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Memories of Mexico

What do you do when you’re out of practice with your daily writing?

You write, whether you feel like it or not. .

My goal is to write every day during the month of May. So far so good, even if it’s not getting posted.

**********

When I think of summers in Mexico, the memories are all wrapped together in a tangle of senses. I remember the whir of the fan, the air licking gently at sweat-soaked skin. You don’t know hot until you’ve done 110 degrees in 80 or 90 percent humidity. Even the showers, short as they were, were never cooler than lukewarm. By the time you dried off you were already damp with sweat again.

The trick to sleeping in heat like that without any air conditioning is definitely the shower before you go to bed. You take a lukewarm shower, making sure you save any of the drips off the showerhead in the bucket for watering the plants, because Lord knows water is precious. You dry off just enough you don’t stick to the sheets, and leave damp skin above the sheets to tingle pleasantly when the rotating fan finally hit your corner of the room.

Of course, even that was a dilemma, the Sophie’s Choice of sleep. Anything beneath the sheets was covered by sweat, but anything I left above the sheets would be chewed on by mosquitoes. There’s something about my blood that mosquitoes and other bugs have always loved. It’s the same with my mom, and as the months go by, it appears I’ve also passed it on to my daughter.

Ah, well. A family that itches together stays together?

It always took me a long time to fall asleep the first few nights we were there, no matter how tired I was. Despite the fact that the rooms were so familiar, with none of the furniture rearranged between my yearly visits, everything felt different. The smell – I think I remember that the strongest. It’s been almost 11 year since I last set foot in Mexico, “thanks” to the drug war, but every now and again some strange combination of smells – almost too-ripe fruit, wet concrete, growing green things, diesel, hot tortillas and lime- and bam. I’m back there, lying on my back, room bathed golden by the street lamp.

I remember the night watchman, the way he bicycled slowly up and down the different streets, blowing his whistle in a soothing cadence that pierced the city silence.

It seemed counterproductive to me, even as a little kid. Why hire a night watchman if he was going to announce to the bad guys when he was approaching, giving them plenty of time to hide?

Still, he was a staple, one of the things you could count on. Tiò would eat small green pea-like chiles with stems for every meal, the tortillas were bought fresh in a brown bag- recien hechas, and nightwatchman would start making bicycle rounds around 9pm.

Sometimes I look in the mirror- at my pinkish white skin, my McDonald’s hips, my very Beckyness, and it seems so incongruous to me that these childhood memories are my own.

The first few nights the sound of the night watchman would wake me up. The slow, unhurried Too-weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeet rise and fade of his whistle would jolt me from a sound sleep every time. I hated him, but only at first.

By the time it was time to return home there was something oddly relaxing about it. I think, now, that he was paid to bring the feeling of security rather than actually fight off crime. Whenever I returned home after a visit with my family the tidy, quiet streets of my Orange County home seemed empty without him.

Houses in Mexico are built completely different from the United States. In my memory every house looks the same from the outside – square, whitewashed walls, with bits of sea green coke bottle shards glued to the top, to discourage people from climbing over.

Once you were in the inside they varied wildly, but the outsides were always the same: Long, flat, stretches of boring white wall, riches and hints of any prosperity all tucked safely away. It made the peaks, angles, and giant windows of Southern California seem almost garish in comparison, a deliberate flaunting of wealth.

If the outside walls were all the same, there was one more thing that was also the same: the tile floors. Cool, dry, and pleasant beneath my bare feet, it felt so different from the 80s brown carpet of my drywalled California home. With the summer heat and being situated so close to potential hurricanes, you can’t beat a Mexican gulf house for sturdiness – everything is made of stone, concrete, or tile. Cool in the summer, freezing in the winter, the walls always felt immovable beneath my palm. The stairs were silent when I went running up them, and the second story floors were completely quiet. There were no creaking floors, no thumping foot beats, no matter how I ran around.

It was oddly disconcerting, and rather than encouraging me to be wilder, or louder, it felt almost wrong to make too much noise. I found myself creeping, sticking close to walls and running hands around corners as I tiptoed here and there.

It’s the floors I remember most of all – those brownish tile floors. They were never dirty, despite the fact that my Tià B had five boys. I always stayed at my Tiá B’s house. It’s not that I wasn’t welcome at my other Tiá’s house, but what was one more kid when added to that noise?

Tiá B was a beauty – is a beauty – a woman forgotten by time. It’s almost disconcerting – she looks the same in photos from her 20s as she did in her 40s, and her 40s aren’t virtually the same as her 60s. She’s perpetually slim, olive skin glowing, dark hair shining.

I remember the quick, practiced way she swept the floor, running the broom with brisk strokes, feet taking shortened steps, toes pointed slightly out. She cleaned the floors in some way or another every day, broom whisking along the walls and down the stairs, the scent of Fabuloso rising up as she mopped, humming.

It wasn’t even a chore to her, just a way of life. You sleep at night. You put on shoes to go outside. You sweep and/or mop on a daily basis.

Sometimes I look around my own wood floor at home, the way it creaks beneath my feet as I walk, the way dog hair and children and dust stack up along the walls in happy piles, and I am ashamed. I know that if my Tiá B lived there, those floors would gleam.

Then again, Tiá B wouldn’t have an 80 pound dog living in her house, a cat with a hairball problem roaming in and out, 3 horses and a bunch of chickens scratching up in the acreage, so I can’t really compare the two of us. It’s a different life.

No matter how I try, I don’t remember much about the days during my summers in Mexico. Frankly, I think it’s because they were just too hot. A few memories surface, when I start digging. I remember the thirst, the way I needed water constantly. I remember steady sweating and the way the icy cold glass bottles of Coke could be rubbed against my forehead. I’ve never been a fan of Coke here in the States, mostly because it doesn’t taste like the Mexican Coke of my childhood. When I was younger I used to think it was the memory of it I missed – the feel of grabbing one out of the fridge, the sound of my cousins, the smell of carne asada and orange trees and diesel and tortillas and men’s cologne all rising up like a musk around me.

Now that I’m older I realize it’s a real taste preference: Coke in Mexico is made with real sugar. Coke in the US is not.

Evenings are more firmly stamped in my memory, my brain gaining the ability to retain memories as the sun sets and the summer heat went from unlivable to something slightly more manageable. Mexican frugality and the late 80s/early 90s peso being what it was, air conditioning was a resource to be hoarded, carefully sealed off rooms of crisp cold that felt almost sinfully good.

My Tiá B taught English in the downstairs spare room, a classroom filled with actual desks and a chalkboard covering the near wall. Evenings would find it filled with quiet, well-dressed strangers, the scratch of chalk against the wall, repetition of verbs and phrases. In the corner of the room there was a small TV on a stand, a VHS tape I could never see with cartoon voices spluttering out in English, starting and stopping.

“Donald Duck is happy. But look – someone took it away. Now he is angry,” my Tiá would say slowly in English. “What is he? He is angry. What is he?”

“He ees an-gree,” chorused the voices.

Angry. Sad. Happy. Lonely. Running. Walking. Sleeping. Short, simple English words floating out, repeated in thickly accented voices. It seemed to me that they never got any better, but now that I’m older I realize it’s because I usually only listened in on the beginner class, since that was the class with the cartoon. The repetition of the same material was confusing to me. English was so easy. It was so much harder than trying to learn how to speak Spanish, with its strange collection of sounds, and the backwards way of ordering sentences, with nouns first. The Coca cold. The food delicious. The gringa sweaty. The family beautiful.

I smelled Mexico the other day – Grocery Outlet was selling some ripe mangoes, rain threatened on the distance, and suddenly I was there. Eight years old and feeling the spongy grass of the backyard beneath my feet as I pestered one of my ubiquitous older cousins. Listening to the hum of a language I almost understood. Surrounded by love and a place that felt almost-but-not-quite like home.

“Smell this,” I said, holding the mango beneath the noses of my four very white children, who all sniffed and shrugged. To them it was a fruit, nothing more. They’ve never been to Mexico, and there’s a small part of me that withers a little every time I think of that. To them it’s just a place, not anything real. They can point it out on a map, but they have no idea beyond that.

I think, sometimes, of throwing caution to the wind and going there anyways. I mean , there’s a drug war, but heck, there are school shootings here. Sometimes it just feels like six of one half dozen of another, you know? I’d like them to meet their cousins, to know their familia, to perk up when they hear the rare Spanish being spoken here in Oregon and eavesdrop with an odd wave of homesickness.

I’d like them to be able to walk through the store, and smell something, and have the memories of love come flooding back.

I miss my family. I’d settle for some gorditas from Dona Tota’s.

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Day 346: The List

Baby horse needs to get here soon.

I mean, there’s a lot of reasons why Baby Horse needs to get here soon, but the reason I’m referring to is so I can know the gender and knock half the names off The List.

Yes, it has capitals now.  It’s not a list.  It’s The List.  By the time I’m finished honing it down and obsessing over it, and choosing one single name from it, it might even be THE LIST.

About a month or two after Sparkles was confirmed pregnant, I began collecting names. I mean, this is a horse who could be around for 30+ years.  I need to find a name I love.  And so, I began a collection.  If I heard a name I liked, I put it on The List.

If I read a name in a book and I liked the way the name sounded, I put it on The List.

If I remembered a character I adored, or a story that meant a lot to me, or a phrase that I thought encapsulated what this too-nice-for-boring-ol-me foal meant to me…it went on The List. I know there are some people out there who can look at an animal and just get a feel for what that animal’s name is…. But that’s not me.  I’ve never been blessed by that ability.  Hence: The List.

Eventually The List was 70 plus names long, and I began weeding.  Of course, the problem was that for every name I took off, I found another I liked just as much and added it on. Lately, with the foal due ANY DAY NOW, I’ve started to get serious.  I mean, out of 70+ names, there ought to be a few that I didn’t like as much, or that wouldn’t work as a horse’s name, even if it was perfect.

For example: Farandolae.

If I ever got a tattoo, it would be of a farandolae. (Well, either that or Calvin and Hobbes – you know, the scene where the two of them are lounging that tree?  That’s a close second, if I were to ever get a tattoo.)  Anyways, back on track.  What’s a farandolae, you ask?

A farandolae is a made-up scientific term from A Wind in the Door, the third book in Madeleine L’Engle’s Wrinkle in Time series. In the book Charles Wallace is becoming sick, and nobody can figure out why.  Eventually it becomes apparent that a great evil is convincing the farandolae in his mitochondria to not “deepen”. When they are young, farandolae are allowed to float around, moving here and there with nothing tying them down.  It’s natural for them, but as they mature they are supposed to grow roots and attach themselves to one spot in the cell in order to do their work and keep the cell healthy.

But they don’t want to.

They listen to the voice of darkness which encourages them to avoid being tied down.  “Fool.  Once you deepen and put down roots you won’t be able to romp around as you do now… you’ll be stuck in one  place forever… and you won’t be able to move ever again.”

In the climactic scene where good argues against evil, one of the older, rooted Farandolae says in return, “Now that I am rooted I am no longer limited by motion.  Now I may move anywhere in the universe.  I sing with the stars.  I dance with the galaxies.  I share in the joy and in the grief.  We must have our part in the rhythm of our world, or we cannot be.  If we cannot be, then we are not.”

I think this means a lot to me because I never really wanted to “grow up”.  When I saw people with their full-time jobs, and their passel o’ kids, and their mortgages and their sensible lives, I shied away.  Even as it was in the process of happening to me, I shied away. And no, I’m not saying that route is for everyone… but for me it was something life needed me to do, and I never wanted to.  I could see it looming ahead, and I fought it, because I thought to throw down those roots was to lose my freedom, and to lose the beauty of my carefree life.

As I grow older, I realize how wrong I was, and how right that older, rooted Farandolae was.  I am no longer limited by motion – now I can move anywhere, and be anything.

The concept is such a huge life lesson I’ve had to learn, and so beautiful to me…

…And just awkward as heck to say and harder to spell, and dude, do I really want to explain something so personal every time I introduce my horse?

And therein lies my dilemma – trying to balance my need for a name with meaning vs a name that’s actually spellable and that I want to say out loud on a day-to-day basis.

Garibaldi? Roheryn? They’re cool… But again, I’d have to repeat myself over and over when introducing the horse.

Paladin?  It’s PERFECT….. oh, wait.  Stupid Mugwump stole it first for her dog.

Pickles?  Story?  I LOVE THEM BOTH, and they’re on my list for personal reasons…. but they also belonged to a friend’s animals, and it seems almost disrespectful to keep them on the list.

Bramble? Pretorian? I like the way they feel when they roll off my tongue, but they don’t make me that excited, so I should probably strike them from The List.

Wanderlust? It’s perfect in meaning (rather than travelling the world with a backpack I am travelling Oregon with my amazing Morgan!), but horrible in reality.  How do you even say it out loud?  What was I thinking? Wander isn’t bad, but…. but Lust?  Lusty? “Hey, Bean, dinner’s just done and there’s a few minutes before bed… can you watch the kids for a while?  I want to go to the barn and groom my Lust for a while… she’s a dirty, hairy Lust.”

Yeah, that’s a definite scratch.

Precept? I think the only reason his made the  list was because I was listening to Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series on audiobook and I liked the way the narrator said that word.

StayGold? I really wish I could make Robert Frost’s poem into a name, because it’s been a staple in my life since I first read it when I was 12 (Nature’s first green is gold, her hardest hue to hold….) …but it’s awkward, and again, a lot of responsibility to put on a young horse’s shoulders.

Name by name, oh-so-slowly I’ve been weaning down that giant list,  and I finally have it down to just over fifty.

Fifty.

Fifty potential names…..for just one little horse.

I have had WAY too long to overthink this.

Promises (to Keep)
Miles to Go
Chantilly
Sonora Webster
Madmartigan
Elora Danan
Remington
Sangria
Haven
Amity
Epona
Thistle
Keeper
Icarus
Epiphany
Daydream
Paladin
California
Paksennarrion (Paks)
Cloud
Alleluia
Gilead
Zion
Banner
Zuriel
Hobbes
Kelpie
Scorpio
Gulliver
Pilgrim
Voyager
Bard
Peregrine
Pippin
Rohan
Gondor
Hodor
Troubadour
Siren
Trouble
Ronja
Ronin
Epiphany
Warrior
Centurion
Saffron
Apoya
Mariachi
Alegria
Elegir
Wander
Haven
Frontier
Pilgrim

And then, of course, right when I was patting myself on the back for making it even shorter, Aarene had to go and add another one to the list: Fairy Bramble. Bramble I’d already struck from the list, but Aarene pointed out that if Sparkle manages to hold on to her baby until she arrives this weekend, Fairy would be a perfect name, and Fairy Bramble an even better one.  Aarene will be crashing at our place, since she’s the official storyteller at our city’s Fairy Festival…. hence Fairy Bramble for a name.

So, I guess, it looks like I’m still adding to That Danged List.

(I couldn’t find any applicable pictures for this post, and it seems boring without any pictures, so here.  Here’s a couple of gratuitous pics of the boys riding Carrots.)

DragonMonkey on Carrots

Squid on Carrots

 

 

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A Bald Eagle is Eatin’ the Chickens

Edit:  This was supposed to post yesterday, but apparently you are supposed to pay for your website URL, every year, or they shut it down. Whoops.

*******

Facebook just reminded me of something.  On this day, back in 2009, I had just passed the LAPD physical…. not by the skin of my teeth, but by the literal skin of my face.

 

It was an accident that should never have happened.  I shouldn’t have started the application process to become a police officer as soon as I had – the DragonMonkey was only 6 months old, and because of my C-section I’d had to wait two months to even begin any real exercise.  I’d been hitting it hard – getting up early in the morning to run, attending CAP physical fitness programs a couple of times a week….

Still – I knew I wasn’t quite ready.  It’s just….  thought I could force myself through it.  After all, it was a numbers game.  You had to pass the physical portion of testing to even begin backgrounds, and backgrounds at the LAPD took a notoriously long time, sometimes up to a year.  Plus, there was no telling when the next academy would even be, even if I was accepted. A best case scenario would give me an additional 6 months to whip myself into shape.  A more realistic timeline would give me 9-12 months… maybe even closer to a year and a half.   I figured if I could just push through the easy treadmill portion I could continue with my fitness regime and by the time I was through backgrounds and accepted into the next academy, I’d be physically ready as well.

The test was harder than I thought it was going to be.  The treadmill was narrow and had no handrails, which made me feel surprisingly dizzy – I am not afraid of heights, but something about the lack of handrails gave me an odd sense of vertigo.  The test itself wasn’t very long.  They had it timed just right to simulate the effect of running 3 miles at a 9 min/mile pace, starting off at a walk and slowly increasing inclination and speed until the final minute was spent at a near sprint at 45 degrees of inclination.

Still, I figured I could do anything for 10 minutes, and I was right.  I passed, and the treadmill turned off…. And in that instant I stepped wrong, tripped, stumbled, and my legs fell out from underneath me.

Falling on that treadmill was like one of those viral videos.  I pitched forward, and then in a last-ditch effort not to fall flat on my face I threw myself backwards, and I ended up falling on my side.  The treadmill was still booking along at a pretty good pace, so it immediately flung me backwards into the wall behind it, where I crumpled, wedged into the space between the treadmill and the wall.  I lay there, panting for breath, my chin bouncing on the still-running belt, scraping the skin off of it.

By the time I managed to pry myself out of there I was too horrified to accept a Band-Aid. Not only did I not want to draw attention to it the stupidity of my injury with a giant Band-Aid (I didn’t realize the injury was as visible as it was), but I also didn’t want to give the person any time to reconsider handing me the “passed” certificate.  I thanked him and grabbed that certificate and went to get changed for the next portion – the questionnaire.

Eleanor Roosevelt may have said that no one can make you feel inferior without your consent.

You know what?

I bet you Eleanor Roosevelt never headed into police candidate testing, the only woman in a room full of chiseled young men, her chin bleeding all over a button-up lavender shirt that was snugly buttoned over too-large nursing boobies.

I threw back my shoulders and pretended I belonged, but I still felt like a poser.

Still, scraped chin or not, I was hopeful.  I could just see myself as a police officer, so clearly. I’d always been interested in law enforcement.  I’d been a part of a police and fire cadet problem in high school and had thoroughly enjoyed my time on every ride along I had during my time with 911 Dispatching. Sure, I’d left that field to go back to school to purse a degree in the medical field, but now that life, a baby, and finances had gotten in the way of that, a career in law enforcement seemed like the perfect fit.

Spoiler alert:  I totally didn’t become a police officer.  I failed on backgrounds, and by the time I could reapply, the dragon of my rheumatoid arthritis had woken back up from its slumber and made me a permanent physical D.Q.

Sometimes I still feel sad about that.  I know it would have been a very, very hard job, and I know that there’s a lot of anti-police sentiment out there right now…. But I still think I would have found it fulfilling.

But you know what?  That’s not what this post is about.

What this post is about is that on this day, back in 2009, I had one baby, lived in a one bedroom duplex in Fullerton, California, and had just passed the LAPD physical.

This morning, in 2018, I have four kids, a minivan, 3.5 horses, and live on acreage in St. Helens, Oregon. I was in the process of being mobbed by twin toddlers, trying to shrug my way into fancy little low heeled boots so I could go to my nice little office job in the city, when I heard the Bean call out in a strange voice from the bathroom:

“Becky?  Be-e-ecky?  A bald eagle’s gettin’ the chickens!”

“WHAT?”

“A bald eagle is eatin’ the chickens!”

As a mom, I’ve come to expect to hear a lot of strange stuff before 7 in the morning, but even I have to admit this was a first.

Not wasting the time it would take to look out the window and confirm, I darted out the sliding glass door, hollering for Artemis to follow me.  I could hear her claws on the hardwood floor (sorry, floor) as she leaped to obey, so I jumped out the door and bounded down the steps, trusting her to follow. If it sounds like a bad idea to bring a Labrador to a bald eagle fight, it wasn’t. I still think it would have worked.

Artemis is one of the most intelligent dogs I’ve ever owned, but she has one failing that is impossible to train out of her:  If you throw a pretend ball, she’ll chase it.

Every time.

She’ll chase it like her life depends on it – leveling out low to the ground, hind claws churning the dirt up behind her as she digs down deep with the force of her frantic run.

I’ve tried teaching her the difference since she was 4 months old, but she can’t help herself.  If you say, “Ready?”  and palm a fake ball, she’ll perk right up, and the second you “throw” it she’ll level out in a dead sprint in whatever direction that was.

I thought this might come in handy with the bald eagle.  Artemis doesn’t have a mean bone in her body, which is good –I would never be stupidly cruel enough to pit a dog against a large bird of prey, and I especially wouldn’t do anything to hurt a bald eagle.  I don’t know all the details, but I’m pretty sure they’re a nationally protected bird, and bad things happen to people who try to hurt them. I knew the bird was separated from us by a very secure 5 foot tall no climb fence.  My hope was that the sight of an angry adult human and a large 80 pound dog sprinting towards it at a dead run would be enough to make it reconsider ever coming back to this particular bit of land for its breakfast.

I headed out on the deck and down the steps, running as best as I could in my trendy little heeled boots (as in, not very well at all.) Even separated by a couple hundred feet, I could clearly see the bald eagle.  It was a full size adult, rich brown body contrasting with the snowy white of its head, flapping awkwardly around the paddock on absurdly long wings as it desperately tried to reach one of my chickens.  It would have succeeded, but every time it had almost grasped her in its talons one of the horses would thunder by in a spooked gallop, and it would have to take to the air again to avoid being trampled.  The chicken in question was the appropriately named Nugget, one of my Easter Eggers.  She was crouched down low, separated from the rest of the flock that had taken refuge beneath the horse shelter. I don’t know how, but she had somehow managed to squeeze herself between the fence and the water trough , making it nearly impossible for the eagle to reach through and grab her with its talons.

“Scat!  Scat!  ARTEMIS, WHERE ARE YOU?  COME?”

From back in the house, I heard one of the boys, “Mom, she’s inside!”

“What?  Artemis COME!”  Where was my dog?  I needed her to be sprinting at the eagle to truly scare it.  The sight of me slowly lumbering after it, with my pear-shaped hips and tottery heels was not exactly fear-inducing.

“MOM!  She’s not outside!  We got her!  She’s inside!”

And that’s when I realized they thought she’d run off, and that I was running off to try and catch her. They saw her coming out the door after me and had stopped her, locking her inside the living room. “NOOOO.  I need her!  Let her come out!”

“What?”

“Let her outside!”

“What?”

“ARTEMIS, COME!  ARTEMIS, READY?  ARTEMIS, GO GET IT!”

“Mom, we got her! Mom, she’s inside!”

“LET HER OUT!”

“What?”

By this time I was only about 50 feet away, and close enough to the eagle that it finally decided to give up.  It gave me a somewhat disgusted look. “That was MY breakfast, not YOURS.  RUDE,” before launching into the air.  Its wing span, its body, its everything… was huge.  HUGE.

Aren’t they huge? http://trapfreemt.org/media/bald-eagle-release-headwaters-state-park

It’s one thing to know that bald eagles are big, and to admire them soaring in the sky above you.  It’s one of the things about Oregon I’ll never grow tired of.

It’s quite another thing to be about 15 feet away from one, waving your arms and saying, “SCAT!  SHOO!  You leave my chickens alone!  Just…. Just SCAT!” and realize that if it didn’t feel like moving, there really wouldn’t be too much you could do to change its mind.

 

Bald eagle caught on hunter webcam

Luckily it did take flight.  Its wingspan was so large it looked awkward those first few beats off the ground as it tried to dodge the horses, but after a beat or two it levelled out and was out of sight surprisingly fast.

I’m hoping we can get the materials to cobble together a chicken tractor before it returns. Our hopes were to build a really big chicken coop this summer, but with all the nesting eagles in this area doing double time to feed their young, I don’t think the chickens are going to last that long.

Still.

I am definitely not in California anymore.

The lower pasture is so pretty. It would look much prettier fenced with electric tape and horses grazing in it – one day. One day.

 

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