Friday, March 30, 2012

Worst. Advice. Ever

I just stumbled across a website with the worst "how-to" advice I've ever come across when it comes to horses. I'm pretty sure it's just one of those weird ad-directed sites, but still.

It starts off decently enough.... although it's kind of obvious English isn't the writer's first language:

Eventually it is the dream of all horse owners to ride on them but if you have aggressive horse, it becomes a frustrating problem for you to ride on it. Here in this site I am going to share some valuable tips and tricks for successful horse riding with you. These tips can be a part of your horse riding training as well. You have done your best to ride on your horse but you failed? Don’t worry! I am here to guide you in the best way to make your horse cooperative with you.

Oh, PHEW. They're here to help me with my aggressive horse. Let's dig into the handy advice!

"Friendship is All You Need."

Say wha-aa--a-at? You know, my old thoroughbred Jubilee and I were great friends. Fantastic friends, even. But you know what? That didn't stop him from spooking and trying to fling himself backwards off of drop offs every time he freaked out. Maybe we weren't as good of friends as I thought...

"Friendship is all you need. First of all you and your horse must be compatible and comfortable with each other. Having horse is not enough. For this you will have to be a pet lover. This is the way you can have your horse ears picked, bright eyes and working well with you while you are thinking of horse riding. It is also necessary that your horse feel safe and comfort when you ride, stays calm in other animals and is bombproof."

I love how they emphasize the pricked ears.... and then just kind of gloss over the rest, and throw "Have a horse who is bombproof" in there. Well, yeah, I guess that would help, wouldn't it? And wait... where did this bombproof horse come from? Weren't we dealing with an aggressive horse, just last paragraph?  Does anyone else feel like someone skipped a few pertinent steps somewhere?

Moving on.
"Be comfortable: Avoid wearing jeans or tight clothes while you are on riding because you can slip from the horse back."

Well, duh. I mean, everyone knows that you wear loose yoga pants while riding, right? I have to admit, this bit of advice was kind of helpful. To think, the only thing that stands between me and Olympic rider status is the fact that I have been wearing jeans while riding.

"Squeeze your thighs to start riding and your horse will move on. You can scoot in the saddle to tell your horse that you want to move now."

I'm getting a great mental image of someone "scooting in saddle" to try to urge a balky horse forward. I don't know about you, but I'd pay good money to see that.

"Just know about leg or rein guide of your horse and have some practice with it to know whether your horse can follow leg commands or slow or turn with the rein."

I can't decide if this is the most down-to-earth or the least helpful advice I've ever read.

"Stop riding is not a hard task. Just pull on the rein to stop the horse. Pat the horse on neck and shows your happy feeling after it stops."

I find it's kind of helpful to break out into song after "pull on rein" to stop my horse. It helps me display "happy feeling" a little better.

And last but not least:

"Remember, your relationship with horse is most important to enjoy successful riding on it. You must trust it to make it obey you."

It's kind of like pixie dust, but with horses... just think trustful thoughts, and you and your horse are just seconds away from being the next Stacy Westfall!

I'd send you guys the link, but this is probably one of those sites that fills your computer with adware and viruses, just for clicking on it.

In other news......

Did you all see what Mugs mentioned in the comments of today's post?  A Mugwump Bloggers Clinic with her and The Big K, some time in 2013?  In Montana?!  A whole weekend spent learning how to scoot in the saddle and helping me to display my happy feeling to my horse...all of this, packed in with getting to meet other bloggers and hanging around in freakin' MONTANA?  (Yeah, sorry, I am kind of obsessed with Montana.)   I don't know about the rest of you, but I kind of want to start packing my best "non-tight, non-jeans" clothes into a suitcase right now.

Dear Oregon/Washington peeps:  Hi.  I don't know you guys that well yet... and I don't even have a horse yet.... in fact, I don't even live there yet.  That said... who wants to buddy up and trailer together?  Anybody?  

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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Mom Of The Year. Again.

DragonMonkey slams to a stop at the bottom of the plastic playground slide, dangling his legs over the edge and burying his feet in the sand, bracing himself with legs that have recently begun to look less like a toddler's and more like a little boy's.

He twists around, looking over his shoulder, and grins up at Squid expectantly.

Squid is on his belly at the top of the slide, and once he sees his older brother's waiting grin, he wiggles forward, sending himself down headfirst.


The slide is slick, and the momentum catapults him into DragonMonkey's back in a tangled slam of limbs that looks incredibly painful.  The impact knocks the air out of both them, and they each give a little grunt.

There's a pause, while they try to catch their breath, and then they both burst out into hysterical laughter.

DragonMonkey wiggles off the slide and races around to the steps, ready to start the whole thing over.

Squid, who is capable of walking but a little too lazy to learn how, crawls quickly after him.

They climb again.

DragonMonkey slides down first, then waits.

Squid wiggles down after him.

There's a painful collision, an explosion of laughter, and then they race to do it again.

Over in the corner of the playground,  on the new, child-safe, politically-correct, boring version of the teeter-totters, I see two moms eyeing me.  Their daughters are playing politely, quietly, bouncing up and down in a controlled, sedate fashion.  If their little girls are talking, I can't hear it.  They look like adorable, sweet, well-behaved little robots. Up.  Down.  Up.  Down.  The moms stand protectively beside the little girls, ready to steady them if it looks like they might slip.  Up.  Down.  Up.  Down.  I'm kind of jealous.

From behind me, I hear the solid slam of body limbs and another screeching round of belly laughter.

Both moms glance my way, then away, trying to hide their looks of growing concern.  Briefly, I consider trying to distract the boys into a less-violent form of play..... but they're having so much fun.

I turn back to watch the boys, just in time to see another round of "SmashBrother" about to go down.... only this time, DragonMonkey has changed the stakes.

Instead of presenting the solid plane of his back for The Squid to crash into, he is standing on the ground in front of the slide, cocking one knee and placing his foot on the slide. 

Squid is already laughing, excited by this change in the game, wiggling on his belly and trying to get enough momentum to send himself shooting face-first into DragonMonkey's shin.

Oh.  Crap.  That's not going to end well.

I lunge forward, shooting my arms between the protective slats of the slide that keep the kids from falling, just in time to grab Squid's ankle as he starts to shoot down the slide.  I've caught him, but that's about all I can do - there's no room to maneuver with my arm between the slats.  He's flat on his belly, arms extended in front of him, dangling headfirst down the slide.  Confused, he turns his head to look at me, face beginning to turn slightly pink as gravity makes the blood rush to his head.

"DRAGONMONKEY, MOVE YOUR LEG."  I'm using my no-nonsense voice, because I can see the moms starting at me with horrified looks and I want to get this over with as soon as possible.

Unfortunately, the DM recognizes my "obey-now-or-suffer-the-wrath-of-mom" voice, and freezes with a deer-in-the-headlights look.  He knows he's doing something wrong, but he's not quite sure how to correct it, so he decides to play it safe by not doing anything at all.


He twists his leg slightly, as if showing off his calf.

I realize I need to be more specific.

"Sit down on the slide!"

Squidgelet is running out of patience - he's been dangling patiently by one leg, but his face is now beet red, and he begins to squirm and whine.

Obediently, DragonMonkey hops up on the slide and sits on it - facing me, with his legs straight out in front of him.

"No, not like that!  Turn around, so I can let go of your brother and he can smash into your back!" 

Did I really just say that out loud? 

The DragonMonkey freezes again, trying to figure out what I'm meaning.  Squidgelet is actively thrashing now, and I can feel my grip on his ankle loosening.

I eye the drop at the end of the slide, and the steepness of the slide, and decide to take my chances.  Maybe Squid will come to a stop before he goes off the edge into the sand?

"Off the slide, DM.  Hurry!  Get off the slide!"

Obediently, the DragonMonkey leaps off the side into the deep sand.  I let go of Squidgelet's leg, and watch helplessly as he slides down the slide...gains momentum... and shoots off the edge of the slide like he's doing one of those escape-from-a-burning-building movie dives.

I'm moving as fast as I can to intercept him, but it won't be nearly quick enough.

He soars an impressive distance from the slide before landing face-first in the sand.  Apparently the ability to brace yourself with outstretched arms is a learned ability...probably brought on by face-first experiences such as this one.  For a brief, almost comical moment, he's actually stuck upright in the sand, rigid body at a 45 degree angle.  He looks like a  cartoon, or a little bitty human javelin.

I burst out laughing.

I mean, I don't just sit there and point at him, laughing.  Give me some credit.  He's stuck headfirst in the sand, not even able to breathe.  I'm trying to get him as fast I can.....

 But at that moment I can't help myself.  He just looks so funny.

And it's at that moment, as I'm rushing forward, laughing at my poor kid suffocating in a pile of sand, that I happen to glance up the two moms.

It's really hard to describe just how horrified they looked.  Proper decorum completely forgotten, they both stand there, their own kids forgotten, staring at me with dropped jaws.  I mean...wouldn't you?  Not only did I just dangle my one year old baby by an ankle and then drop him headfirst down a slide, but now I'm laughing at his misfortune.

Finally reaching the Squid, I kneel down and scoop him up, wincing at the sight of his sand-encrusted face.  Even his nostrils are blocked by two tiny little plugs of damp sand, which I manage to mostly clear while he's still drawing in breath for his first outraged shriek.

"Ssshhhh," I say in my most soothing voice, trying to make up for the fact that I just laughed at him.  "Awww, poor baby...shhhhh...."  I'm using my sleeve to try to clear clumps of sand out of his eyes, ears, nose, and hair, but I can tell it's going to be a long chore. 

With a piercing shriek of a wail, Squid finds his voice, announcing to the entire playground that he is the victim a terrible, horrible, no-good, baby-throwing, misery-mocking mom.

I cuddle him to my chest and continue to soothe him, and take solace in the only fact that makes me feel like I can show my face in this park again:

I'm moving soon.  In two months I'll never have to see those moms again.

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Friday, March 16, 2012

Chickens and Puking

What a title, huh?

Anyways, I am here to pick your brains.

The Squid's been having a puking problem. 

It started about the time I stopped nursing, so it wasn't that hard to figure out that it was a dairy intolerance.  When we switched to almond milk it helped clear it up from the puking every day to only throwing up one to two times a week.  The problem is that this has been going on for almost three months.  I've switched him over to a gluten-free diet, just in case...... but does anyone else have any ideas what might make a relatively healthy one year old throw up?  I'd like to feel like I'm doing something while I wait on the referral to the GI/allergy specialist to go through. 

Here's a picture of him from back in December, when I was still nursing him, before we started having allergy (that's what I think it is) issues:

And here's a picture of him from last week:

Keep in mind that the photo above is AFTER he started putting weight back on.  Anyways, I'm open to any and all ideas or stories.

 Moving on to less serious topics:

On a whim, I decided to do a little research into my my new town's Chicken Laws.  Yeah, yeah, they're called "city ordinances".

Whatever.  Quit being so technical.

Guess what I found out?

Three chickens.

Three chickens, no roosters, and up to six chicks.  We can have three chickens at our new Hobbit House!

Do you have any idea how happy this makes me?

I want one of these:

and I want one of these:

and then I want one of those plain-looking white ones that lay a stupid amount of eggs so I can have lots of these:

After a really long week, you have no idea how happy this makes me.

I think I'm going to name them "The Beckies".  Is that narcissistic?  Or is it the opposite of narcissism?

Who cares?  Yaaaay!  I'm going to be moving out of California AND getting some chickens!


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

I Wish I Had Wings

Do you know what the worst thing about growing up is?

I don't really know how to fly anymore.

I mean, I dream about it every once in awhile, but it's a rare thing, and even when I do it's not the same.  I know too much about the physics, about the lack of air density and the impossibility of it all.  Even if I do break free from my self-imposed ties to earth, I rarely get more than 40-50 feet off the ground. When I angle forward for a dive I pull up too soon, frightened to gain any real momentum.

I miss flying.  I can still taste the memories, the sweat of exhilaration, the sweetness of freedom.  I'd run as hard as I could, feet pounding against the ground, body leaning forward, until I gained enough power to kick off.

Leaving gravity behind was difficult - my arms would strain against the weight of it, pushing and pulling at the air, flapping hard, feet kicking as I gained altitude.

Then there was that sweet moment - the moment when I knew I had a succesful takeoff.... that moment when the strain of liftoff was behind, and I'd slow the beat of my arms down, rising from the ground in long, lazy spirals, playing with the currents of the wind.

I miss that.


Friday, March 9, 2012

My New Theme Song

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Why The Idea of Homeschooling Frightens Me

Welcome to your first day at Becky Bean Academy!  As the principal, teacher, and leader of this fine institution, I'd like to welcome you to--

DragonMonkey, GET YOUR HANDS OUT OF THE TOILET!  SQUIDGELET, YOU TOO!  You guys are not babies anymore... why are you still doing that? SIT DOWN IN YOUR CHAIRS!

Ahem.  I'd like to welcome you to this place of learning.  Within these walls I will --

Where was I? Ah, yes.  Within these walls we will dedicate ourselves to the processes of education, and higher---DragonMonkey, quit picking your nose--- learning. 

As my children, I know the depths of your intelligence, and I expect great things from - Squidgelet, quit biting your brother!  NOW! -- great things from both of you.  Now, if you will please open your booklets...


Fine.  You may go potty.  Squidgelet, do you have to go?  No?  Okay, just read your book quietly until DragonMonkey returns.

<17 minutes later>

Now, if you will please open your booklets...


Why didn't you go at the same time as your brother?  I asked if you had to go... No, fine.  Go. 

<14 minutes later>

Please open your booklets.  These booklets list the classes you will be taking this year.  In addition to the regular courses you would expect to find, such as Reading, Arithmetic, and History, you will find that you can sign up for some extra credit courses.  These courses have been specifically chosen as a result of the strengths of our faculty.  Here at Becky Bean Academy we want to offer the finest of education, and as such we are only offering courses that are commiserate with our current instructor's experience.   If you are seeking any clarifications or would like further information on the courses before making your decision, feel free to raise your hand and ask a question.

You in the front--- DragonMonkey?  Yes?  Oh, yes, "Forgetfulness 101" - that is a lovely course.  Well, the course is an in-depth study on how to forget... uh, stuff.  What kind of stuff?  Well, it should be listed under the main header.... right beneath "Course Description"....

What? There's no course description?  Whoops!  I know I wrote one up - I must have accidentally printed an earlier draft.  My bad.  Well, it's a great class - all about forgetting stuff.  I'll get you more info later - try to remind me after class - I can't find my pen to jot down a reminder note right now.  I will let you know that you might consider taking it, as "Forgetfulness 101" is a prerequisite for some of our more popular advanced courses:  "Where's My Cell Phone?" and "Have You Seen My Keys?

Yes, Squidgelet?  Oh, yes, I see you're looking into the Humanities section of our electives.... "The Art of Being Scattered".  That's a great course.  The teacher in that course has a lot of life experience and training to share with you.  Oh, What's it about?  Well, it's kinda about a lot of stuff.  It starts off with a really neat, well-researched article about right brain versus left brain dominance - there's even some really pretty graphs!  Then it just kinda... I dunno.   The teacher kind of shows a lot of stuff on the Internet, and tends to get distracted by XKCD comics.... There's something about butterflies?  And a lot of references to horses?  The attendance policy is really lax - the teacher sometimes gets distracted and forgets to show up, so she's pretty easy on the students. 

I'm sure you all have a lot of questions about the courses,  but if you can turn your attention to... CRAP!  Where's the smoke coming from? 

Oh, man, I was cooking something in the oven... Crap, crap, crap...... NO!  Don't say crap---crap's a bad word.  Yes, Mommy said it... just forget about it! Open the windows!  Get me a pot holder!  Uh... class dismissed!

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Monday, March 5, 2012

One Day....

One day I will be able to train a horse like this....

Awww... who am I kidding?  I sincerely doubt I'll ever get to being this level of a horseperson.  I'm sort of okay with that.  If I can get to half this good I'll consider it an accomplishment.

Seriously, for those of you who don't know what the Extreme Mustang Makeover challenge is, here are the basics:

The competitors arrive at the BLM stockyards with an empty trailer.

They run a wild, half-crazed with fear mustang through ramps and into the trailer. 

The competitor then has three months to train it to:

  • Accept a human's presence without flipping out
  • Accept a human's touch without flipping out
  • Accept basic care like farrier work and haltering without flipping out
  • Accept a halter, saddle, bridle and all that entails without flipping out
  • Accept a rider and basic training without flipping out
And then you have this guy, who added things like bull whips and sliding stops and flaming rings of fire - you know... just simple stuff like that on top of domesticating a completely wild horse.

If I had a hat, I'd be taking it off.  Well done, sir!

Oh, wait... I need another hat. I need to take it off for this guy, too:


Thursday, March 1, 2012

Professional Modeling Is Not In My Future

I'd just finished putting the DragonMonkey to bed when I happened to walk by the large mirror we have hanging in the entrance.

What I saw there stopped me in my tracks.



I looked good.

No, no, I'm not being vain.  You know what I'm talking about.  Some days, no matter how hard you try, or how many layers of makeup you slather on, you just look awful.    Everyone has those days - you got a great night's sleep, you spent time on your hair, you just finished some disgustingly healthy lunch and chased it with more than enough water, you've got your most flattering outfit on..... and yet still look like you just finished three straight days of hard drinking and partying in a dirty section of Tijuana.

Last night I should have looked like that.  I was tired.  The kids have been sick.  I had run a brush through my wet hair twelve hours earlier and not touched it since.  It was late, and I felt beat.  I didn't have a lick of make up on. 

Yet when I looked in the mirror, my eyes were bright, my skin was clear, and my hair was falling in glorious, luxurious waves around my shoulders.

If I sucked in my belly and twisted my hips juuuuust so, I not only looked good, I looked really good.


Unfortunately, with the kids in bed and The Bean in his night class, there was no one around to witness it.

Well, shoot.

After a few minutes  of preening in front of the mirror and admiring all the gorgeous neat things my hair had decided to do simply because there was nobody was around to witness it, I finally figured out what to do.

I needed a picture of this minor miracle.

I mean, I needed to be practical about what was happening.  By the next morning whatever magic I'd been dusted with would have faded and I will be back to looking disheveled and exhausted. 

I needed photographic evidence.

Besides, if I took a really nice photo, then I could update my Facebook profile pic.  See, it wasn't just narcissistic.  I was being practical.  Right?  Right.

I had seen those cute photos that girls were always taking of themselves on Facebook.  All you had to do was hold your camera at arm's length, smile, and voila!  Instant cuteness.

How hard could it be?

Famous. Last. Words.

I grabbed my cherry chapstick to add a little color to my lips, picked up my camera phone, and snapped a quick pic of myself.

It was too dark to see it.

So I turned on the kitchen light and the flash on the camera, and tried again.

In addition to making an incredibly stupid expression, I blinded myself with the flash.  Ow.

Well, that wasn't going to work.  

Obviously I was going to have to do one of those "I'm looking pensively off in the distance at something that is causing me to appear deep in thought" type pictures if I wanted to be able to avoid permanently blinding myself with the flash.

I took another pic and looked at the result:

Wow.  Uh...... Wow.  That was so not the look I was going for.  I look like I'm about to be attacked by something evil that's going to try to eat my face off.


I mean, I look pretty calm for the fact that I'm about to be devoured by an evil worm monster, but it really wasn't what I had in mind to show off to the world.

Obviously I needed to just look kind of forward, and let my face relax.  I wanted a candid, normal looking picture, not something that was heavily posed.

 Okay, maybe I didn't need to look that relaxed.  I looked like a stoner.  A smile.  That's what I needed, a nice, normal looking smile.

AAAAAAHHHHHH!!!!  STUPID FACE!  That is NOT what I meant by a normal looking smile.  That is, hands down, the least normal looking smile I've ever seen on my face.  I look like the worm beast is now in front of me, and I'm trying to put on a brave face before I meet my death. Besides.... why were all these photos down so low?

I raised my hand and took another photo.  At the last second I tried to blow some of my hair out of my face.


I took another photo.

Blurry, because I changed my grip on the camera at the last second.  

I took another photo.

Blurry - the dog made a noise and I wanted to see what what he was doing.

I then went through no fewer than TEN photos in a row, and they were all blurry.  I kid you not. My ADD kicked in so bad that I couldn't even hold still for my own photos.  Do you have any idea how embarrassing that is?  I'd get ready to take the picture, and then something would distract me and I'd end up with a shot of the side of my head.  Or a blurry swing of the face.  Or a crooked photo of the lower left hand corner of my jaw.

I even got a shot of a blurry shot of me mid-sentence.

I mean, to understand how stupid of a shot this is, you really have to understand all the facts:

  1. Nobody is making me take these pictures.  I want to take them.

  2. There is no time limit on taking these pictures. 

  3. From the time I lift my arm to take the picture between the time I actually snap the picture it's only about 3-4 seconds.  Think about this.  I got bored and distracted in a 3-4 second time frame in the middle of a project I am voluntarily working on.

  4. There's nobody in the house with me except for the two sleeping kids and the sleeping dog.  Who am I even talking to?  What am I saying?  What on earth was so important that I just HAD to start talking to myself right then?   

I took about thirty photos.

Crooked photos.  Blurry photos.  Photos where my glasses are crooked.  Photos of the wall.  Photos of the underside of my chin.

In at least half of the photos my eyes are closed.

The other half of the photos have my eyes open abnormally wide, in a desperate attempt to not have yet ANOTHER photo with my eyes closed.

In each subsequent photo you can see my facial expressions became increasingly annoyed.

By the end of my modeling session my photos were turning out like this:

Just in case you ever get the chance to meet me in person, I think I'll give you fair warning:  If you ever see this expression on my face --- RUN.  Just turn around and run.  That is not a smile on my face.  That is a barely controlled snarl.  This is what happens when I take my "HOLY CRAP I'M SO ANNOYED I'M GOING TO CHEW UP AN INNOCENT BABY KITTEN AND SPIT OUT BULLETS" look and then try to cover it up with a fake smile. 

Thirty photos, people.  Thirty.  I ended up with one semi-serviceable photo that I got by accident when I was testing the different camera functions.

No, I don't look happy.  No, I'm not smiling.  No, it's not in color.  But it's not blurry, both my eyes are  open, and I don't look like I'm about to leap forward and attack the camera... or worse, run away because I look like the camera is about to leap forward and attack me.  I consider this photo to be an overwhelming success.

So, what's the point of this blog post?  Well, let me just say this.  I learned a lot about myself last night.

I learned that professional modeling is not in my future.

I learned that I apparently have a deep-seated phobia of cameras - at least, that's what it looked like judging from my wide-eyed, frightened expression in the majority of the pictures.

I learned that I was born without the "smile for the camera!" gene.  I imagine this gene is paired with the "ability to do makeup", "put together nice outfits", "likes to go clothes shopping", and "do something other than stand around awkwardly when another woman bursts into tears" genes.  Apparently, I am missing that entire subsection of genes.  I think they have been replaced by an extra helping of the the "Must Read Books" and "Look!  A horse!  LOOOK! A HORSE!!!!" genes.

I learned that I have the attention span of a gnat.  I mean, I knew it was bad, but I didn't know it was quite that bad.

And, finally, I learned that I'm more than a little jealous of those girls who squish their faces together and take easy, adorable self-portraits. 

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go back to the things I'm good at.  I've got a half-finished book and an entire Internet full of horses to be looked at and drooled over.