First Day of School Nostalgia

Tuesday was the first day of school.

It was more than a little bittersweet to me. This was the first summer in Oregon I didn’t spend home with the boys, and I feel almost like the whole season almost passed me by. When you don’t get home until 5:30 and jump straight into frantically cooking dinner for hangry children, bedtime and nighttime and getting up to get ready for work the next morning is on you before you know it.

On the other hand, Oregon did her best to make it feel as summery as possible to try to make up for it, so maybe fall isn’t such a bad thing. We had almost no rain from May on, and the whole state seems dry and crackly. Local parks lost quite a few older trees due to the overly dry summers, and the ground feels hard-baked beneath my feet.

I may not be ready for the return of the rain, but the land certainly is, and I can’t begrudge it the moisture.

Anyways, as I was saying, Tuesday was the first day of school which always makes me feel more than a little nostalgic. I remember lining up in front of my mom’s camera with its shutterclick sound, bright flash, and the roll of film that would wind itself up at the end of every spool. First day of school pictures are a yearly tradition.

As I dragged everyone outside into the nicer light to take my own pictures, DragonMonkey dutifully dropped his backpack on the ground and walked over to the designated picture-taking area. “Why do we have to do this every year?”

“Because….. because it makes a nice collage when you’re all done. I can see how you looked at the beginning of each year. I have first day pics of me, all the way up until my first day of college.

He lined up in front of the wall in front of our house, and reached for his yellow piece of construction paper with the hastily-written words in cheap marker. “If we’re… if we’re still doing this in college, do you think that maybe…. I mean, not to hurt your feelings, but maybe we could get nicer signs instead of paper?”

Present Becky is always willing to make promises on Future Becky’s behalf, so I was quick to agree. Future Becky would totally make one of those awesome, color-coordinated, sturdy Pinterest-style signs.

Future Becky is a chump.

I raised my cell phone, and DragonMonkey threw on his customary closed-mouth smirk smile that he always does for pictures, the one that makes him look disturbingly teenagerish.

After that it was Squid’s turn – I say Squid because that’s what I’ve called him on this blog since the beginning (when he was a Squidgelet), but he’s recently informed us that we are not to refer to him by that nickname anymore. In fact, we are not to refer to him by any nicknames. He will only respond to his full name.

I raised my cell phone, and he tilted his head back, looking at me with the heavy-lidded cool-dude expression he always likes to don for pictures.

“Squid, can’t you open your eyes a little bit more? I can barely see your eyes. You don’t have to smile if you don’t want to, but just open your eyes a little mo—“

“Bus,” intoned the Bean. “BUS!”

I snapped another picture in desperation:

And then kissed them as they dashed down the street, their backpacks rising and falling with each stride.

Like I said, first days of school always makes me feel nostalgic, and as I drove to work my brain rattled down familiar roads. Am I doing enough, as a mom? Am I being there enough, helping enough, loving enough, challenging and pushing enough, educating enough? Am I screwing any of them up? Have I already screwed them up beyond repair? Will they turn into adults I actually like, ones I am proud of? What can I improve on?

It was that last thought that trapped my brain. If you have multiple children, it’s not an easy answer. Every kid is unique. Even if I could wave a magic wand and change myself, each of my kids would want something different from me.

If DragonMonkey could reshape me, I think he’d turn me into the quintessential Pinterest mom. I’d rise before dawn in a wrinkle-free, coordinated outfit, and cook a couple of pounds of bacon and pancakes. I’d wake him with a hug and a tickle and invite him to feast while I washed all the breakfast dishes myself, and then he would get dressed and I’d spend the rest of the day chauffeuring him around to new experiences. Our days would be scheduled, right down to the minute, and there would be few surprises. Everything would be planned out (well in advance) with professional-looking calendars and well-packed gym bags for soccer games and playdates (are they still called playdates at his age? Probably not.) Upon returning home I’d miraculously produce a hearty, healthy, meat-and-vegetable dinner within minutes. After dinner we would play a light round of video games.

It sounds exhausting, but he would be so, so content.

Also, he would want me to have super long, super straight hair. I dunno. It’s just a thing with him.

What would Squid want?

Squid would want me to be Elsa:

only I’d be Elsa with a machine gun.

It be only me and him, no other siblings around, and we would have amazing adventures where we would shoot guns and rappel down walls and help people. At the end of each adventure he would heroically save us all, and most likely I would present him with a nightly medal he could hang on his wall. We’d feast all day on ice cream and sodas and candy.

My hair would also be long, and I would never cut it, because cutting hair is pretty much the same as ruining everything about yourself forever and ever. I’d be a crack shot with a rifle, and always have on fresh lipstick.

I’m not gonna lie, aside from the whole makeup thing and wearing a dress, I think I’d have a lot of fun in Squid’s World.

If I’m being honest, the twins would probably love to change me too. Finn’s imaginary mom is the easiest to understand – I didn’t even have to think very hard to know what he would want.

Finn would very much like it if I could stop being me, and just figure out a way to be The Bean, except with boobies.

Seriously.

He would be SO content if I could just figure out a way to make this happen. Also, my/ Bean’s boobies would still be producing copious amounts of milk that never ran out, and Finn would still be able to nurse all day. The two of them would live on a tractor, alternating all day between nursing and doing tractor-type stuff.

I’m pretty sure if Finn was in charge of heaven, that’s all it would be: Heavily-lactating, giant-boobed men on a variety of different tractors.

You can see why I’d rather be stuck in Squid’s world, right?

Magpie is a harder nut to crack, because she’s so quiet with her wants. I know she would like to have Mommy/daughter time without any pesky brothers around. In her imaginary mom world I would be a fashion diva, and we would both dress up constantly.

Please understand that by dress up I don’t mean we would wearing tasteful evening gowns with sensible heels – oh no. Magpie’s version of dressing up consists of layering accessories upon accessories… and also, do you know what makes an accessory really pop? Another accessory.

The two of us would adorn ourselves like real-life Fancy Nancies:

and then we would spend quite a bit of time just sitting around pointing out each other’s amazing outfits. Earrings. Yes, earrings. I am wearing earrings. You have sparkly shoes. Yes, yes you do. I do, too.

We would admire each other’s glasses, frequently.

Wherever we went each day, it would not be in a car pointed in the direction of home, because oh lawsie, “NOT DAT WAY. NOT DAT WAY. NO HOME… NOT DAT WAY.” She’s an adventuring sort at heart.

She’s not very particular about what we would do, provided we do it together, but if I had to come up with something I think we would spend the entire day swinging on swings at the park, trying on different pairs of shoes, and maybe riding a pony. We’d have a collection of items we dragged around, from Purple Bow Dog to Rattle Elephant, and we would very systematically rearrange them around ourselves wherever we went.

We would hold hands, a lot. We’d practice number facts, and sing the ABC’s and “Tinka Tinka Widdah Stah” over, and over, and over. And over.

And over, and over, and over, and over.

Also, we would feast on .99 cent bagged salad from Safeway, because she’s kind of weird that way.

Maybe it’s for the best that the kids can’t rearrange me to suit their desires… It’s exhausting just imagining it.

In other news: Reverie isn’t coming home until closer to the end of the month, which I’m thrilled about. I can definitely use another week or so to get things ready for her.

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Getting ready for Reverie

I introduced the twins to Reverie yesterday.

I figured it was time, since she’s going to be coming home in less than a month (GACK!). I didn’t want the first time she saw a pair of loud, hyper two-year-olds to take place during the stress of her move.  There’s enough craziness at our place that every day is a lesson in desensitizing:  kids on trampolines waving towels over their heads, flying kites over the paddock, wagons full of shrieking children being pulled all over by a hyper Labrador….

If I can take any steps ahead of time to make her transition to Bean Acres easier, I definitely want to.

In case you were curious, the answer to “How many people actually refer to it as Bean Acres?” is still “just Becky”. Even when I do use it, it’s usually only in my head.  There’s something about naming your property and then saying it out loud that feels a teensy bit pretentious, like you’re talking about yourself in third person.

Well, I don’t care. I’m going to keep calling it Bean Acres, in hopes that one day it will catch on.

Of course if really wanted everyone to call it by a name, I could probably should have named our home FartFartPoopFart Acres.

And if you don’t understand why that is, then I congratulate you, because you aren’t living in a house filled with mostly males. Seriously. I will never understand why farts are so unbelievably funny.

Anyways, I had a few minutes in between getting off of work and showing up at the house to get started on dinner, so I decided to stop by and see if I could say hi to Reverie, and scratch on her a little bit.

There have been times when I’ve come to see her she was waaaaay out on the back side of 20 acres and all I could see was a tiny brownish speck next to a larger brownish speck, but lately Kathleen has been putting her in a shady paddock during the day, to protect her incredibly sensitive pink nose.

I foresee a lot of Destin/long-nosed fly masks in our future.

Luckily for me, Reverie and her mom (Sparkle) were hanging right by where I normally park, so it didn’t take very long to find them.

Reverie was very, VERY interested in the twins, almost to the point of spooking. It didn’t help that Finn was in a hyper mood and kept jumping rather than walking, and that Magpie had dragged along the singing puppy she takes with her everywhere.

 

His (apparently it’s a boy?) name is Doggie PurpleBow, and bless the makers that gave him an off switch that’s easy to switch off but hard for toddlers to find.

Seriously, thank you. There are only so many times you can hear “That’s my tummy!!! Tummy begins with ‘T’!!!! T…U…M…M…Y.. spells TUMMY!!!!” followed by semi-maniacal animatronic giggling before you get the urge to run away and join a cult. That off switch saves my sanity.

For being only 3 months old, I am really impressed at how laid back Reverie seems to be. I know a lot of adult horses that would not stand still with two screechy twins coming running full tilt at them, complete with creepy singing dolls in their arms.

I prepped the twins as we got near, to better direct them.

“This is Sparkle. Sparkle is a mommy horse. Sparkle is nice.”

And dude.

Sparkle is SO nice. Every horse should be a Sparkle.

Sparkle is just a gem of a mare in a very pretty package. You could tell she really liked the twins, because she just came alive when they drew near, swooping low to snuffle at them and standing patiently as they patted the sensitive tip of her nose with their inept little hands.

Magpie, who lives up to her namesake more every day with her penchant for shiny, sparkly things, was in awe of the name.

The horse was named Sparkle.

Not only was the horse named Sparkle, but she, Magpie, also had on a pair of sparkle shoes (light up Sketchers with sequins I found at a yard sale.)

She couldn’t get over it- it totally blew her little two-year-old mind.

“Yook, Spahkle. Hi, Spahkle. Spahkle shoes! My Spahkle shoes. You Spahkle. Dese my spahkle shoes!”

Sparkle is thinking, “You’ve literally been showing me your shoes five minutes straight, saying the same three sentences over and over. I get it. I see them.”

 

While the twins were VERY interested in Reverie, and she in them, I discouraged it as much as possible.

“That’s Sparkle, she’s a nice horse. And this is Reverie, Sparkle’s baby. Reverie is Mommy’s new horse. Reverie is a baby, and Reverie bites. Hard. It will hurt. No touching, or she might bite you. This horsie bites.”

Okay, maybe Reverie doesn’t actually bite…but hey man, two-year-olds and three-month-old horses don’t mix. Reverie would probably nip out of boredom given half a chance, and I’d rather terrify the twins a bit and have them keep a safe distance than try to explain the concept to them or give her a chance to learn bad manners.

After all, for all Reverie is amazingly sweet and calm, she’s still just a foal. I trust her as much as I would trust a hyper kitten near priceless lace curtains.

The twins were horrified at the concept that Reverie could bite, and proceeded to spend the rest of their time lecturing her.

“No biting. No bite. No. Ow. No biting,” they said, over and over…. and over and over…. and over and over, in a kind of squeaky tandem Gregorian chant.

It almost made me miss the whole “Dese my Spahkle shoes” litany. I wish I’d thought to take a video instead of a pic.

You can actually see Finn saying “no bite” here.

Anyways, it’s a little disconcerting that Reverie will be coming home in a few weeks. For the one thing, it means summer is almost over, and that makes me sad. With my full-time job, I feel like I barely spent any time outside.

In addition, although I’m not nearly so worried as I would have been if I hadn’t brought home Jupiter last year…. She’s only going to be four months old.  Jupiter was the youngest horse I’ve ever owned, and he was already a yearling when I got him.

The idea of her actually being here, so young and impressionable, is totally terrifying.  I know in my head that it’s actually not, but my heart disagrees and keeps insisting it really is terrifying.  Reverie represents years (decades?) worth of dreaming come true.

The most disconcerting thing about her impending arrival is the fact that she’s, you know, going to actually be mine. I’m a perpetual daydreamer. I’m used to daydreams – they’re easy, and airy, and fun to live in…. but the Bean is a realist. When I daydream, he tends to take it literally.

 

It used to cause us issues in our marriage, because I would want to daydream with him (“Wouldn’t it be cool if we could get 30 chickens and make money selling eggs? Wouldn’t it be great if we had more property, and could raise our own beef?  What if we packed it all up and headed to Montana? Look at this gorgeous chocolate Labrador, I wouldn’t mind owning a dog like this”, etc, etc.) and he would start to get stressed, trying to figure out all the complexities of turning my imaginary scenarios into a reality.

Even after ten years of marriage, it still weirds me out when the Bean manages to turn my daydreams into reality ,and I think that’s where I am at now. The sheer realness of Reverie makes me nervous.

In my head I am Alex Ramsey on a deserted island with my amazing Black Stallion who is bonded with only me. I am athletic and confident and young, galloping bareback over deserted stretches of sand, and I always know the right thing to do.

In reality…. I’m a 37-year-old mom of four who is out of shape and struggles with depression and has never really taken many riding lessons or had a foal this young, and what the heck am I doing with a horse this nice? What if I ruin her? What if I break her?  I asked for water, but someone handed me the nice china, and can I please just use one of your plastic tumblers to get a drink out of so I don’t have to worry about dropping it?

Caspian is also an amazing horse, but he wasn’t necessarily my decision so I didn’t feel as responsible for him as I do for Reverie.  That’s not to say he’s not magnificent – he’s athletic and amazing and calm and wonderful and talented and I’ve never met a horse as honest as he is.  Still, I didn’t set out to buy him. A horse trader sold him to a horse trader, who sold him to my parents, who needed to find him a quick home after they had some unexpected hospital time.

I’m sure I’d feel just as panicky if I’d bred him from scratch.

Of all the things that are not on my control, there is one thing I can actually do something about, so I’ve channeled all this:

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into slowly getting back into shape. I set an initial weight loss goal for myself back in May, and I’m almost there. Once I hit that goal I will then let myself join the local CrossFit.  I know, I know, Crossfit is the devil/the best/the worst/your savior.

I’ve heard it from a lot of different people, trust me.

The thing is, I tried CrossFit before, and it suited me perfectly. The trainers were wonderful and modified all exercises for out of shape me….

But during the free trial week I found myself getting super competitive and I pushed myself too hard for where I was phsically.  I didn’t injure myself – I just ended up having to go up and down stairs on my butt for three days because I didn’t trust my quads to hold my weight.

You haven’t really lived until you’ve tried to navigate stairs on your butt with a set of 7 month old twins in your arms.

I know you’re imagining that in your mind, and let me assure you, the reality of it was even more ridiculous.

Anyways, I figure I’m almost as the point where I can try again, and hopefully by the time Reverie is rideable I’ll be in a place where I can sit a three or four-year-old green broke horse (you better believe I’m sending her away for the first 90 days!) and not feel totally off-balance from lack of core strength.

Giving myself something to do helps. It gives me something to do while I think, and as I ponder, I’m also realizing that it’s okay. It’s okay to love something this much.

In those quiet moments where I’m honest with myself, I think that loving Reverie may be my biggest fear of all.

When I was in my early 20’s I had a flame point cat named Fuego. If you’ve never had a close connection with a pet, it will sound weird to say this, but he was my best friend.  When he escaped from my house and got hit by a car, I was devastated. That’s not hyperbole either- after I received the phone call letting me know he’d died I started crying so hard I had to leave work, and for the rest of the week I barely managed to pull myself together enough to show up for my receptionist job.

Months later, still in the midst of  my private mourning, I lay curled on my side under the covers as silent tears dripped down my cheeks. I still felt aching and raw, lonely for the way he used to crawl under the covers and sleep against me. And that’s when I had a total lightbulb moment, to the point I even muttered it out loud:

“Well, this is stupid.”

Fuego would have lived, what … Fifteen years at most? Seventeen? It just didn’t make sense to give away that big of a piece of my heart to a pet only to have it destroyed every decade or so. There wouldn’t be anything left of me when it was all said and done.

And that was that. That was the last time I let myself get really close to a pet. Oh, I still love my animals, but it’s an easy-going love, more like warm affection.

With Reverie I can sense it is going to be so much more, and it makes me nervous.

Of course, maybe I’ll get lucky?  Maybe it’ll turn out that she has a nasty PMS cycle or that she likes to pee on my shoes whenever I get close to her, or barely tolerate me scratching on her neck.  Maybe she’ll be a habitual stall kicker, or like to stomp chickens, or rub her mane out, or pin her ears a lot?

It’s a weird thing to secretly hope for, but then at least I’ll feel like I can relax, because then she wouldn’t be quite so perfect, so the idea of being responsible for such a perfect daydream of a horse won’t be quite so daunting.

And in the meantime…. if you’re looking for books on training young horses over at the St. Helens Public Library, you’re outta luck.  I’ve already checked them all out. After all, when in doubt, go to the library.

 

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My Weird Dreams vs The Bean’s Weird Dreams

For years my dreams have both plagued and thrilled me.

I’ve had terrifying dreams, waking dreams, and disjointed-but-full-of-symbolism dreams. I’ve had awesome dreams ruined by my husband’s practical nature, suffered from creepy sleep paralysis, and lately I’ve been unnerved by awful “awake-but-not-quite-awake-as-floating-faces-draw-ever-nearer” dreams.

I’ve had mom threesome dreams, dreams where I almost but-not-quite get to ride a horse, and dreams where I’m a crappy parent.

I’ve had the ubiquitous “Oh no, it’s finals day and I didn’t even study” nightmare.

I’ve dreamed I’m combating housecleaning with my specialized Magic the Gathering card decks.

I’ve had lactation nightmares and dreams of swashbuckling bravery, dreams with background music, Game of Thrones Librarian dreams, dreams with old friends I’ve never met anywhere in real life, but who I walk with regularly as I sleep…

I’ve even dreamed I was a My Little Pony with an assault rifle, only to have it ruined at the very end.

I mean, seriously. My dream life is THE BOMB. I feel sorry for non-dreamers sometimes. I go to bed, curl up on my left hand side and drift off, and then I wake up with a magic bow that shoots napalm arrows and I’m infiltrating the enemy base to single-handedly bring down corrupt governments. I have chase dreams, superhero swat team and dreams where I’m trying to survive the zombie apocalypse while high on LSD.

I have dreams where I’m stuck trying to take down the Mexican cartel and the only weapon I have is a fuzzy troll doll/banana slug hybrid.

I regularly have lucid dreams where I use my cognizance as a weapon, and even lucid dreams where I feel pity for the people in my head. Some dreams are funny, a lot of them are not. Some nightmares are so terrible that I don’t even like to write them down, because I keep hoping the details will fade.

The worst ones won’t, no matter how many decades go by.

I’ve even had epic three and four part dreams, where I wake up and then go right back to the same story line the next night, and the multi-part sprawling story line is so complex and woven so tightly that I’ve jotted down the plot in hopes of turning it into a book one day.

Strangely enough, I used to have nightmares about having twins all the time, but since I had to combat that phobia in real life, it’s gone away. There’s power in facing your fears.

Dreams sometimes feel like they are as much a part of who I am as my waking life – an entire swirling second plane of existence I visit for 8-10 hours every day (hahaha, who am I kidding? I have four kids. 5-6 hours a night?).

My dreams are huge and complex and creepy and wonderful.

And then there is the Bean.

The Bean is not very artsy. Oh, he loves beauty, but he is drawn to the beauty of symmetry, or stark beauty, or the kind of powerful beauty contained in 30 foot waves off the southern coast of Chile. I used to ask him what he dreamed about, but eventually I stopped. Even though he was honest when he shared, it took me years to actually believe him. It wasn’t that they were too fantastic to comprehend, but rather that they were too literal.

This morning the alarm clock went off way too early. Finn is still sleeping between us in our bed,

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and lately he has gone from mostly sleeping through the night to waking up every 2-3 hours, asking for another bottle.

Usually around bottle number 2-3, his diaper overflows and wets all of our sheets, and we wake up gritty-eyed, exhausted, and covered in toddler pee.

Parenting: it’s not for the faint of heart.

After several weeks of devolving sleep, I finally had enough and tried putting down my foot yesterday. I told him he would not be getting a third bottle in the wee hours of the morning, and that two bottles was quite enough.

Two or three hours of disjointed, angry screaming toddler non-sleeping later, our alarm went off. I rolled over, trying to blink my hot, too-dry eyes as I returned to reality. What had I been dreaming of? There was a sense of impending doom….. had I been rappelling down the side of a burning building, Australian-style? Why was the building on fire… was it the apocalypse again?….

“I had the weirdest dream,” The Bean murmured, the sound of his voice shattering the haze of my dream into disjointed scenes.

I rolled over and looked at him. “Oh yeah?” The Bean dreams so infrequently that it’s a rare treat for him to remember one.

“I owned a gas station.”

“Yeah?”

“And I had a catalog of all the snacks, so I was going through the catalog, making decisions about what to restock..”

“Yeah?”

“……”

“Then what? You had the catalog, you were trying to figure out what to restock, and then…”

“…..Becky, I just owned a gas station. I was going through the inventory, selecting what to order from catalog. ”

“…… Wait, that’s it?”

“Yeah.”

That was it. His “weird” dream consisted of him doing inventory.

Ten years of marriage, guys, and I still don’t understand how this man’s brain works.

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DragonMonkey and the Disappointing Dinner

It was too hot to cook last night.

After six summers in Oregon I have finally acclimated.  I sweat and whine and flop about bonelessly whenever the sun gets too warm, which is generally anything over 90 degrees.

I know.  I know.  Feel free to mock me – I certainly am.

While that’s still a lot more stoic than most of the other “anything over 80 sucks” long-term Oregonians around me, it’s still a far cry from the Becky of the early 2000s, who would patiently mutter “I really don’t enjoy doing an 10 hour day in the Bakersfield sun whenever it hits over 102”.

Yesterday was a balmy 95 degrees, and despite a house with central AC and an office with AC so crisp that every patron who steps through the doorway smiles in pleasure, I just couldn’t bring myself to embrace the idea of cooking when I got home.

I tried asking my friend Google for help.

“Google, it’s too hot to cook. What kind of dinner should I make for my four kids?”

I did my best to keep it simple.  I learned long ago not to ask Google to consider the fact that Magpie is dairy-free or that DragonMonkey is gluten-free… the results are too weird and difficult.

Even so, the results were fairly predictable.

“Becky, you should have grilled up tri-tip two days before you needed to ask this question so you could marinade it in your fridge and slice it up today to serve with a variety of cold salsas!”

“Sorry.  I forgot – Google, what kind of quick dinners can I feed my four kids when it’s too hot to cook?”

“Becky, you should make hamburgers!  Fire up that grill that stands right in the sun with no shade and then roast things for an hour.. that’s the perfect no-cooking meal!”

“Google, NO. You’re not listening. What kind of I DON’T WANT TO COOK AT ALL meals should I make my kids tonight?  Meals for a hot summer night that kids will actually eat?  And I swear, if you recommend some kind of garlic spinach Brussel sprout salad again, I’m going to hate you for the rest of my life.  What kind of kid starts jumping up and down in excitement at the idea of a garlic spinach Brussel sprout salad?”

“Becky, you should make chilled bean dip!”

“Huh, that sounds kind of good.  How do I–”

“You take black beans and mix them up with garlic and sliced cilantro harvested beneath a winter moon.  Mash it with a silver fork and blend for 2.3 seconds n a counterclockwise direction with acai berries and je ne sais quoi and sprinkle it with foreign spices and blood of a virgin and…”

So I turned to Facebook, where people are much more reasonable, and got a bunch of wonderful answers.  Deli meat platters.  Veggies and ranch dips.  Ice cream sundaes.  Order Dominos.  Send the Bean out to grill for me.

I finally settled on cereal, and decided to make an event of it.  I stopped off at the store on my way to pick up the kids from the sitter’s, and grabbed four boxes of forbidden, name-brand, sugar cereal.

After herding all four of them upstairs into the house, I pulled out the boxes with a flourish.  Lucky Charms. Fruit Loops.  Cap’n Crunch.  Honey Bunches of Oats with Almonds.

“Dig in and have as much as you want!” I announced, gesturing at the boxes with a flourish.. “It’s too hot cook, so today and tomorrow are cereal dinner nights!”

Three children cheered.

“Wow!  Yummy!  Thanks, Mommy, you’re the best!” cried Squid.

“Ceweal!” chirped Magpie with a giant grin, and then glancing sideways at her big brother, she added an absolutely adorable, “Gank oo, Mammy.”

“CEWEAL!” echoed Finn, dragging on his high chair, trying to pull it over to the table.  “Wan up.  CEREAL!  Wan up!  Pease.  CEWEAL!”

DragonMonkey crooked an eyebrow, the weight and responsibility of his preteen years settling heavily on his shoulders.  “Really, mom? This is dinner? Don’t you think we need more vitamins and protein than this?”

“Dude.  It’s cereal.  We rarely even eat it for breakfast.  Relax and be happy.  This is a fun treat.”

He picked up a box and squinted at the side.  “It says here it has 12 grams of sugar.  That’s too much sugar.  You’re really going to give this to us for dinner?”  His gaze settled on me, waiting for me to make the right decision.

“Relax, DragonMonkey.  I’m not sitting you in front of a TV and cramming M&Ms down your throat on a nightly basis.”

“M&Ms?  We have M&Ms?”  said Squid, perking up with interest.

“No.  It’s a simile…. wait, it’s a metaphor…. Oh, I forget.  No.  Eat your sugar cereal and be happy.”

“Thanks, Mom!” Squid said.

DragonMonkey took a deep breath and proceeded to explain slowly, as if I was the world’s slowest learner. “Mom, it’s not good for us to have this much sugar.  Our muscles need protein.”  He shook his head, manfully shouldering the burden of his oh-so-disappointing mother.

“Fine. Everyone but you gets Lucky Charms.  You can go eat a limp hot dog and gnaw on frozen broccoli, or wilted lettuce or something.”

“No, no.  It’s fine.”  He poured a bowl with a sigh.  “I just think that maybe other moms out there are feeding their kids real dinners.  It’s okay though.”  He sighed, heavily.  “It’s fine.”

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For sale:  pre-teen with opinions.

CHEAP.

 

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Inconceivable After Ten Years of Marriage

“Becky, I’ve got to so much to do today, I don’t know how I’m going to get it all done in time.”

“Oh, I’m sorry, Bean.  That sounds like a lot. Here, put this shirt on Finn.  I’ll change Magpie.”

“I’ve got that presentation to give at 11, and then another meeting…”

“That’s a busy day, for sure.”

“And then the appointment at 2. I’m going to have to bow out by 3:30 at the very latest, even if it’s not done, to make my 4 pm meeting…”

“You’ve got your country’s 500th anniversary to plan, your wedding to arrange….”

“What?”

“….your wife to murder, and Guilder to frame for it.  You’re swamped!”

“What? Oh, is this from one of your books?”

“Bean, you’re supposed to put your hand on my shoulder and say in a solemn voice, “Well, if you haven’t got your health, then you haven’t got anything.”

“Huh?  Oh.  Oh, is this from a movie?”

“Just say it.  Saaaay itttttt.  Look me in the eye and say ‘If you haven’t got your health, you haven’t got anything.‘ ”

“It is from a movie, isn’t it?”

“SIGH.  Princess Bride.”

“The one with the guy who wears dark clothes and the mask?”

“Nevermind.  Here, here’s Magpie’s socks.”

“Thanks.”

“No more rhymes now, I mean it.”

“What?”

“Nevermind.”

Image result for i'm not a witch i'm your wife gif

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Carrots the Singular Pony

Oh, shoot. I forgot to update the blog, which means that the — maybe two of you? —that I’m not Facebook friends with were left hanging.

The results of the ultrasound were:

It appears that some labs that process bloodwork aren’t as trustworth as others. It’s possible they counted her total estrogen, instead of the specific estradiol they tested for? I have to be honest, I didn’t really pay attention to the entire explanation, because in my head I was doing this:

And yes, that’s the same clip twice in a row, but seriously. This is exactly how I feel.

I do feel a little sorry for my older boys. They were really, really REALLY excited about having a little bitty baby pony in their own backyard. I told them to keep it to themselves until we found out for certain on Saturday, which (in typical kid fashion) they interpreted it to mean “TELL EVERYONE, AS LOUD AND AS FAST AS YOU CAN.”

They might have even cried a little bit when I told them she wasn’t going to have a foal. I found myself murmuring all sorts of “Well, that’s something to think about” type lies when they started asking if we could ever breed Carrots and have a baby in our own backyard.

I guess I wasn’t entirely lying. It would be something to think about.

Man, wouldn’t that be horrible and hard and impossible and expensive and totally pointless, to breed a baby pony out of the mediocrely-built pony my kids will outgrow in less than a decade?

There. I thought about it.

Okay, I take that back. Carrots isn’t mediocre – she’s actually built pretty cute, and will be quite attractive once we finish worming her and getting more muscle on her, and some shine in her coat. Also, she’s just so stinking good natured.

When I found out that she was “pregnant” one of the first thoughts I had was, “Well, DRAT! I thought I had the nicest mare in America, with the quietest heat cycle ever. It turns out she’s just pregnant. I wonder how witchy she will be once the “real” Carrots emerges post pregnancy?”

As it turns out, this is the real Carrots. Hooray!

Saturday morning dawned bright and early. I had taken some updated photos of Carrots’ belly on Friday night, and to my mind’s eye she was so wide that I thought the ultrasound was almost pointless.

Still – if I was going to have to rearrange my entire life (possibly lease out Caspian, drop a bunch of money on bedding for the stall, invest in a ton of non-fescue hay, keep the horses separate, etc.) then I needed some very real conformation.

I told the boys to stay out of Carrots stall in case she was moody and close to delivering and to leave her be…..which apparently translated into “let’s braid a flower crown into her mane to make her look pretty for the vet.”

Sigh. Cute…. But SIGH.

The last time Carrots loaded up on a trailer was when she showed up here, plus it was the day of the Seattle to Portland bike ride, so my farrier and her trailer arrived early. We walked Carrots out to the trailer, with her trailing along behind DragonMonkey on a loose lead.

That’s a far cry from the pony that arrived back in February, who seemed to delight in dragging people in her wake as she lunged from patch of grass to patch of grass.

I still remember the expression on her face the first time I really corrected her. Popping her with the leadrope did absolutely nothing – she would toss her head in the air for a moment, all fake indignation, and then drop her head and lunge at the next bit of grass. She was very good at lowering her body mass and pulling you forward. If I wasn’t at juuuuust the right angle, she could even drag me. And the kids? Forget it. They sailed along behind her in the wind, like spindly little kites.

I didn’t know her, and since she was so thin I didn’t want to punish her unnecessarily hard for her desperation to eat, so the first week or two I did my best to correct her gently. Eventually I began working my way up to popping her pretty seriously with the leadrope, but it made absolutely no difference, even with a knotted rope halter.

Eventually, enough was enough.

I was standing beside Carrots as she calmly grazed, when all of a sudden she took it in her mind to go to a different patch of grass. She lowered her head and deliberately jerked her jaw forward, trying to rip the lead rope out of my hands.

I windmilled my arm and smacked her belly with a giant open-handed SLAP!

Carrots. Was. Horrified.

She reminded me of one of those “I’m a customer, and the customer is always right!” If you’ve ever dealt with the public, you know the exact time I’m talking about. Carrots doesn’t have fingers, and so she didn’t have a manicure, but if she had hands her little laquered nails would have been trembling in shock and dismay as she covered her mouth with stiff fingers.

How DARE I? How DAAARE I strike her? Why…. Why… why… why, she NEVER! My manager was going to HEAR about this. She was going to have MY JOB!

I let her digest the indignity and horror that had just been inflicted on her, standing calmly to the side. I think that’s the important part of having to discipline a horse, or at least what works for me – giving them a chance to think it over, and letting them decide what they’re going to do next.

Carrots decided to be good. She eyed me out of the corner of her eye, but when I asked her to leave the next patch of grass, she did just fine.

A couple of weeks later, Aarene was over to visit, and was teaching my kids to teach the horses “Look Away”.

Caspian got in one or two tries.

Carrots got a light smack on the side of her face after she became too pushy.

She. Was. HORRIFIED.

A couple of weeks later, she tried to crawl over the top of me when I was carrying some feed, and I cowkicked her. It sounds so much worse than it actually is, but it’s actually one of the best things I’ve found for dealing with a horse that won’t respect your space. You just pick up your leg and kick out behind you.

Either they’re too close and your foot connects with their chest (unless you’re secretly Jackie Chan or all muscly, it doesn’t hurt them in the slightest), or you find your foot dangling in middair because if there’s one thing that is universal in horsey language, it’s the lead horse kicking out when an underling is following too closely. Horses immediately know that you’re telling them to baaaack offfff.

Anyways, when my foot connected with her chest she was slightly horrified, but beneath her eye rolling, I saw her looking at me and thinking.

And that was it. That was the last time I had to correct her.

Oh, I’ve had to grab the leadrope from the boys once or twice, when she has started to amp up her desire to pull them around when they’re grazing her, but all it takes is a tiny little jiggle of the leadrope, maybe a slight pop to remind her, and she’s back in business. She leads everywhere now, slowly, and respectfully, and she’s not nearly as traumatized as she thought she was a couple of months ago.

I actually really like her. We are pretty lucky to have found her.

Anyways, Carrots sniffed the ledge of the trailer twice, then loaded like a dream despite not having seen a trailer for the past five months, and off we went to Newberg.

I really liked the vets I met, and I do wish they were closer. They had a clean facility, relaxed horses onsite, and were very reasonably priced. It was a husband/wife team – she specialized in the sportshorse/lameness side, and he specialized in the equine reproduction. Because Carrots is so small, the wife was the one that did the actual ultrasound, and he directed her movements and read the results.

So, the bad news is that I got everyone’s hopes up for nothing and totally destroyed my children’s dreams and made them cry.

The good news?

Carrots behaved like an absolute dream. I have to admit, I was a little on the fence if I was going to keep her, back in late spring. She has wide, nervous looking eyes sometimes, and she seems ultra alert to things.

I couldn’t put my finger on it, and I’d never seen her actually freak out with a spook, but there was a wariness, an over-alertness that I just didn’t quite trust. If I’m going to keep a pony that’s too small for me to ride, I want it to be one that I trust with the kids, not one that’s spooky and overreactive.

The thing is, she has never actually really spooked. Oh, sure she’s been startled, but she hasn’t really spooked, and the way she handles herself in new situations is amazing. She walked right off the trailer at the vet’s, glancing around her alertly, and then stood beside me patiently while we discussed her history. She didn’t paw, she didn’t jig in place, she didn’t freak out – she just stood there, patient and wide-eyed and very still, and waited for us to tell her what to do next.

Good pony.

VERY good pony.

The vet said, “Well, she’s definitely got a belly,” when she came off the trailer, but was quick to amend, “Of course, I’ve had really wide mares walk off the trailer here for the purpose of giving birth here, only to palpate them and discover that they were open, so belly doesn’t mean that much.”

We led her into their exam barn and they gave her a smooth muscle relaxer to make the ultrasound less uncomfortable as well as a fast-acting sedative, and the ultrasound began.

It was pretty obvious to me that there was no pregnancy after the first minute or so of the ultrasound, but still – I waited until they were done and heard the words “We can’t for-sure rule out a pregnancy that’s less than two weeks, but she’s other than that, she’s not pregnant.”

For a brief moment I felt almost disappointed – I had been looking forward to seeing a pony foal on the ultrasound machine, and to having my suspicions proved correct, and to getting a foaling date….

But maaaan, that moment was very, VERY brief indeed, because immediately afterwards I felt my entire body relax with a warm, drippy, almost honey glow of relief.

I hadn’t even realized how truly upset I was until I felt my body sag in relief, and I threw my arms up in the universal TOUCHDOWN victory sign.

“Not pregnant! She’s not pregnant!” And then I started tearing up. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry, I know it’s silly to cry, it’s just… I didn’t know how I was going to be able to handle it. I didn’t want to… I didn’t want to do wrong by my kids and get rid of their pony, and I didn’t want to have to get rid of my horse, and I have that filly coming in October, and I just… I just.. I’m sorry. I’m sorry, I’m just so happy. I’m so happy!”

They stared at me, and I continued apologizing and babbling, until eventually they said, “Well, actually, we have had people cry when their mare’s not pregnant, but we’ve never had anybody cry from happiness before. This is a new reaction to us. I’m glad you’re happy, though.”

Time for a power pack wormer to get rid of the belly!

I know the boys are so sad about it all, but I am just so happy, and so relieved. I feel so rich right now. Do I want to go build a grazing paddock? Well, I should go build a grazing paddock! Do I want to go get a coffee? Well, I can grab me a coffee on the way to work! I don’t have any (planned) vet bills in the future!

Also, do you want to know what the very, very best thing about Carrots not being pregnant is?

In the back of my mind, I was a little worried about the work load of three horses. Oh, sure I managed just fine with Jupiter, but Reverie is a lot more horse than Jupiter. Also, last winter was hard. I know most of it was the depression, but it was HARD…. And now I’ve added a full time job on top of everything.

Anyways, with the Carrots pregnancy scare, I spent so long trying to wrap my brain around how I was going to afford and care for four horses that three seems almost easy by comparison.

Three horses? Four kids? Forty hours of work?

Pffft, no problem! What a piece of cake!

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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.”

 

***********************

 

“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.

***

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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