Love your horse. Just don’t LOVE your horse.

The barn at night is my favorite place in the world.  The horses are quiet, the wind is soft, and the world seems to slow to a peaceful crawl.

I’ve taken on a part time job doing in-home care for an elderly gentleman. It’s rewarding work and I love it…. but it doesn’t leave me a lot of extra time between that, taking care of the boys, taking care of the pets, and trying to cram in writing time so maybe one day I can actually publish a book.

One of the best parts about Pacific Northwest summers are how long the days are.  As I finished my evening shift, I looked outside and decided to take an impromptu trip to the barn. Why not?  Even though it was nine at night the sun had barely set and there was probably almost an hour left of that endless summer twilight that I appreciate but will probably never get used to.

Caspian moved barns a couple of weeks ago, and it’s been great.  The new barn has acres upon hundreds of acres of trails that start about 10 feet outside of the arena, and the horses get regular turnout on individual paddocks of green grass.

Needless to say, we’re both happy.

Since the new barn is full-care I no longer have to drive out to the barn daily, and I have to admit it’s been kind of nice.

Still – I feel guilty having someone else do all the work for my horse, which is why it was so gratifying to pull up and see Caspian hang his head out of his window and watch me pull up with pricked ears and a pleasant expression.  He seemed genuinely happy to see me, but that’s probably because I’m stacking the odds in my favor – I try to end every visit with at least 5 minutes of hand grazing.  My theory is that no matter how hard we work on a new concept, or how much we butt heads (it’s rare, but it happens), five minutes of peaceful hand grazing can erase it and leave him with a good taste in his mouth, both literally and figuratively.

I slipped the halter onto his waiting nose and we walked in darkness to the arena, waiting as the large overhead lights slowly turned on.  I let him run around for awhile, mentally cursing my lack of camera.  He’s looking great lately, and I really want to document his weight gain.  Besides – he’s just gorgeous when he’s flinging his head around and striking out mid-gallop, and I really  need to get a good picture of it.

I only had about 30 minutes before I needed to head for home, as I’d promised the barn owner I’d be out of there by 10 so she could lock up.  I took him outside and let him graze in the knee-deep grass beneath a violet sky and a waxing moon.  I tried to take a picture, but all you see is an amorphous shadow beneath a tiny white dot…

Technology?  Are you hearing me?  One of these days you’re going to have to figure out how to let normal people take better pictures of night time.  Let’s have a few less Facebook cell phone updates and pay a little more attention to that, mmkay?

Tomorrow is supposed to be sunny and I have plans to bathe Caspian, so after I led him back to his stall I decided to take out his mane braids.  I’ve been doing my best to follow the “grow your horse’s mane like a Friesian” method of mane care, and so far it’s really working.  The only time the hair is down from its braids is when I am washing it with lots of conditioner and finger-combing, working out any knots carefully.  After it dries, I french braid it into about 8 sections that hang down his neck, and then I don’t touch it until the next time I’m ready to wash it.  Occasionally I have to rebraid sections, but it seems to hold up just fine.

I’ve owned Caspian less than a year, but in that time period his mane has probably tripled in thickness and it has grown about four inches.  That may not be impressive compared to some horses,  but considering how wispy his mane was when I got him, it’s an unbelievable improvement.

I decided to give him the evening with his braids down – he hated being braided in the beginning but has grown used to it, and now there is no grooming he likes better than the feel of me taking out his braids.  I slipped off his halter and he stood without moving as I worked my way up his neck slowly, carefully picking around potential knots and doing my best not to pull out any more hair than was necessary as threaded my fingers through his salt and pepper strands.

His eyelids sank slowly, his neck dropped with each passing moment, and at one point he actually fell asleep with his muzzle resting on my shoe.

Eventually we were done, so I grabbed a brush and decided to give him a once over before saying goodbye for the night.  I intended it to be a quick, but as I brushed him I realized he was in an unusually affectionate mood, so I slowed down and began to really groom him.

He leaned into each brush stroke ever-so-slightly, eyes glazed and upper lip twitching with pleasure.  I started at his head and worked my way back, even going so far as to stand up on tiptoe so I could see the top of his hindquarters as I brushed them, making sure I didn’t miss a spot.  I’m used to his size now, but it still gets me that I can’t see the top of his hindquarter without going on tiptoes – I’m 5’8, so it’s not like I’m exactly petite.

I turned my back to his head, leaning my shoulder against him as I worked on a particularly stubborn green stain on the inside of his hock… but as I did the hair on the back of my neck began to prickle in warning.

Was… was someone looking at me?

I stood up slowly, resting a hand on Caspian’s hip as I turned around…. and that’s when I saw him.

Gone was the sleepy, glazed look he’d been wearing for the past ten minutes.  Instead, Caspian had his head craned completely around, his neck nearly doubled on itself, and he was staring at me with a bright eyes.  His ears were pricked and his nostrils flared slightly as he stretched his nose toward me.

It looked for all the world like the look a mother horse gives her foal when she sees it for the first time.

(Just like that – except we were both standing, and there was less placenta.)
“Hey, buddy.”  I smiled at him, trying to figure out where this unusual surge of emotion was coming from.

He stared at me harder, willing me to understand.

“Hey… hey handsome.  I love you, too.”

His nostrils quivered – the barest hint of the beginnings of a silent nicker.

“Does it feel good, Caspers?”  I ran the brush down his hip again, and he stared at me harder.  “Does it feel good?  I bet you were itchy, weren’t you, Caspian?  I bet you were totally itchy, and it just feels so good.  You like it?  Do you like…..”

I trailed off as I stepped forward to brush his side, and that’s when I saw it.

IT.

All of IT– nearly a foot and a half of erect glory, proudly announcing that oh, yes.  Caspian liked it.  He definitely liked it, thank you very much.

“GROSS.”  I took a step back and grimaced.  “Gross.  Put it away, Caspian.”
Content that I had seen him in all his turgid magnificence, Caspian’s intent expression relaxed and he quit staring at me, swinging his head back around to face the front of his stall with a satisfied expression.  Do you like it, Becky?  It’s for you. You make me feel good.
“No, I do NOT like it.  Put it away.”  I knew I needed to correct him, and hard – but I was loathe to break the peacefulness of the evening.  This was supposed to be my quiet time, dangit.  If I’d wanted to train I would have ridden him.  Also, if I’d wanted to deal with a foot and a half of reproductive equipment, I would have bought a stallion, not a stupid gelding.  Still – I couldn’t just ignore it.  I slapped his flank with a flat palm, hoping the sound would startle him out of his exhibition.

He ignored me.  That was very surprising, considering he’s usually a little overly sensitive to correction.  He stared resolutely forward, refusing to acknowledge me.  Go ahead and look, Becky.  I don’t mind.  It’s not awkward, so long as we don’t make eye contact.

IT twitched.

“GROSS,” I said.  “Put it AWAY.” Even if it wasn’t weird and gross, Caspian was gelded late and there are certain lines you just don’t let an ex stallion cross… this was definitely one of them.  I deliberately created a little bit of a growl in my voice – which normally made him throw his head up in the air dramatically – and accompanied it with a hard THWAP on his side with the brush. The brush I was using had a solid wooden handle, and there was no doubt that it hurt.

He jumped slightly, but refused to turn around.  Becky, shhh. There’s no need to raise your voice and get all violent.  Just keep brushing me.  We’ll keep this between us.  I’ll just avoid your eyes to give you a moment to take it all in….. but really.  Look at it.  He shifted his weight infinitesimally,   somehow managing to give off the impression that he was pointing at it, without any hands.

Enough was enough.  “Put it AWAY!” I said, and this time I reached out and thwacked IT hard with the prickly, bristly side of the brush, although I may have squeezed my eyes shut in sympathy at the moment of impact.
That got his attention.

He jumped vertically about three feet, and swung his hindquarters away from me.  What the hell was that?!  You don’t do that to a stallion.  OW.  Why did you do that?  We were having a moment, and you just lash out at me like that? What is wrong with you?

“No.  No, no, no, no, NO.  You are not a stallion – that thing is for peeing, and peeing only.  PERIOD.  You keep that away, you hear me?  I mean it,” I said, pointing at IT with the brush.  “You finish putting that away, right now, or so help me I’ll hit it again.”

He avoided my eyes again, but this time with a chastised expression.  IT went back to where it belonged, and I went back to brushing him – me businesslike and curt, him staring straight ahead with a hurt expression and no hint of affection.  Apparently our intimate moment was over.

But that’s okay – I mean, I want my horse to like me, but I don’t want him to like me, you know?

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Use Your Imagination….. Just Not Like That

I cracked my eyes open to find a pair of green eyes staring intently at me from only a few inches away.

It wasn’t the first time the DragonMonkey had decided to wake me up by staring at me silently, without blinking, but it didn’t make it any less creepy.

“Hey, DragonMonkey.”

“Look, Mama.”  He stared at me hard, willing me to notice.  And how could I not?

Sometime after waking up he’d sneaked down to the basement and found the two balloons I’d tossed down there the day before. Yes, blowing up two balloons had helped him and The Squid burn off some energy on a cold, rainy afternoon, but after an hour of them playing “Let’s Hit Everything in Sight, Including Each Pets and Breakable Items, All While Laughing Hysterically“, I’d had enough. When toys are used for evil they get banished to the basement.

Apparently the fate of those poor, banished balloons had been on his mind all night, because the second DragonMonkey woke up he crept down to rescue them.

And rescue them he did.  He stood in front of me, clutching them proudly to his chest, back arched as he showed them off.

I blinked a couple of times as I stared at the way they pressed together, forming an impressive red and green cleavage, and cleared my throat before answering.  “I… I see. You have the balloons.”

“No, LOOK, Mama.”  His back arched even more, and I found myself flashing back to Orange County and all its plastic glory.

“Yes.  Two balloons.  DragonMonkey, can you give me a moment to finish waking up?”

“No, LOOK.  I’m like you.”

Like me?

“Like you, Mama.  See?  They’re like what you have!”  He jerked his chin in the direction of my own chest.

Oh, oh, please let it just be my dirty mind.  Please, please don’t let him be saying what I think he’s saying.  “I… I don’t want to jump to any conclusions when it’s still six in the morning..  DragonMonkey, what do you mean?  What are those supposed to be?”

“They’re like you’re, uh…. Uh… My words not good, I don’t know…. They’re like yours.  Like what have, on you.  Your private area – that you gave milk to the Squid with, in Huntington Beach.  Like those!”  He squeezed his hands, causing the giant plastic globes to wiggle obscenely.

I mean, I’m all for kids using their imagination, but why?  Why couldn’t I have given birth to someone who woke up early and decided to just go watch some cartoons like a normal kid?  Did he really have to come in and wake me up so I could admire his brand new, imaginary, red and green giant boobies?

“DragonMonkey… just… just go watch cartoons and let me make some coffee.  Then we’ll deal with this.”

Motherhood.

It ain’t for the faint of heart.

Kids or Self-Esteem: You Can Only Choose One

“What’s this?”

“That’s my eyebrow, Squid.”

“What’s this?”

“What?  You’re three now.  You know what those are.”

“No, you tell me.  Please?”

“Fine.  Those are lips.”

“What’s this?”

“Cheekbones.”

“What’s this?”

“That’s my neck.”

“What’s this?”

“Clavicle.”

“What’s this, Ma?”

“Squid, you know that one.  Chin.”

“What’s this?”

“…. Uh, that’s my chin.”

“No, this your chin.  What’s this?”

“Uh… my neck?”

“No, Ma.  This your neck.  What’s THIS?”

“Uh….”

“Ma, tell me.  What’s this?  WHAT’S THIS?”

“….. that’s my double chin.  Go away.  I’m done playing.”

Can I eat my kids yet?

“DON’T GO PEE OUT THERE NAKED.  Squid, you don’t go pee naked.  Everyone see you.  what you were thinking ’bout, peeing in the front yard?”

“Nuthin’. I just pee. DragonMonkey, Let me in.”

**************
 “Boys, your mom is out running errands.  I’ll be watching you while she’s gone.  You can play with any of my sons’ toys that you want, but all I ask is that you pick them up when you’re done.  Understand, Dragonmonkey?

“Yes, Mrs. D.”

“Squid?”

“Yes, Mrs. D.”

“Okay have fun.”

“Boys – I need you to clean this up.  You’ve scattered toys all over the hall, and in the living room.  Come put them away.”

“Yes, Mrs. D.”

“Yes, Mrs. D.”

“DragonMonkey, Squid, both of you come here, right now.  Look what you did – when I said you needed to put the toys away, I meant you needed to actually put them away, not just throw them in my son’s room and shut the door.  Do you understand?”

“Yes.  I sowwy, Mrs. D.”

“That’s fine, Squid.  Thank you for apologizing.  Just clean them up and you’ll be fine…. DragonMonkey?”

“…….”

“DragonMonkey?”

“…….”

“DragonMonkey, you can either answer me and go clean up those toys, or you can go on the timeout chair.”

“Awww, shit.  SHIT.  Fine, Mrs. D.”

*****

At five and three years old, they’re probably too big to eat, right?

How to Feel Sorry For Yourself

“Artemis Bean, you get your butt back in this yard, right now!”

Artemis broke off playing with our neighbors’ dogs, wiggling her butt excitedly as she romped back to the fence dividing our properties. 

OMG HI!  HI!  I LOVE YOU!  HI!  I’M PLAYING!

“I’m not in the mood, Artemis.  We’ve fixed this fence THREE TIMES.  How are you even getting over there?”

OMG!  I LOVE YOU!  I’M GONNA GO PLAY NOW! I LOVE YOU!  BYE!

“NO.  Artemis, COME.  You’re a bad dog.”

OMG.  YOU HATE ME.  I’M SORRY.  YOU HATE ME. I’LL LEAVE.  I’LL LEAVE FOREVER. I’M SO SORRY….. LOOK!  A DOG!  TWO DOGS!  I LOVE THEM!  I LOVE YOU!  I’M GONNA GO PLAY NOW!  BYE!

“NO.  I said COME.  COME, Artemis.”

OK!!!  I’LL COME!  OMG!  THERE’S A FENCE HERE.  DID YOU KNOW THERE’S A FENCE HERE?  I LOVE YOU!!!  I’D COME OVER THERE, BUT THERE’S A FENCE.  I LOVE YOU!”

“You got in there somehow, so you can get out.  Artemis, COME.  Show me how you got in their danged yard again.  COME.”

OK!!!  I’M COMING!  WAIT.  THERE’S A FENCE.  DID YOU KNOW THERE’S A FENCE?  I CAN’T… OH, LOOK!  LOOK!  I FOUND A HOLE!  WELL, NOT A HOLE, BUT I BET I CAN MAKE ONE IF I SLAM INTO THE FENCE HARD ENOUGH AND FORCE IT TO GIVE….. YAAAY!  I’M HERE! I LOVE YOU!!!  I LOVE YOU!!!! YAAAY!!!!!!”

Sigh.  “Good come, Artemis.  At least I know how you’re getting through.”

OMG!  I’M A GOOD DOG, AREN’T I?  I LOVE YOU!!!  …… OMG.  LOOK!  THERE ARE DOGS OVER THERE!  I WANT TO PLAY!  BUT THERE’S A FENCE.  DID YOU KNOW THERE’S A FENCE HERE?  HI, FRIENDS!  LET’S PLAY!”

“Artemis, NO.  NO, NO, NO.  You may NOT go through that fence.  Bad dog.  BAD dog.”

OH NO!  YOU HATE ME.  I’M HATEFUL.  I DESERVE TO BE HATED.  I LOVE YOU.  I DON’T DESERVE TO LOVE YOU.  I’LL LEAVE NOW.  I’LL JUST GO… GO OVER HERE?  OMG, LOOK!  THERE ARE DOGS OVER THERE!”

“Oh, for crying out loud. Artemis, NO.  No fence.  No.  Just… go inside.”

YAY!  INSIDE!  I LOVE INSIDE!  IT’S MY FAVORITE!!! I LOVE YOU! I LOVE EVERYTHING!

I stomped my way back to the laundry room and proceeded to change the loads.  I popped the dry clothes into a hamper, popped the wet clothes into the dryer, and filled the washer with a load of colors. At the last second I decided to wash the jeans I was wearing, so I stripped out of them and put them into the wash, too.  Sure, all my other pants were dirty, but I didn’t have anywhere to go.

Besides… I was just going to sit on the couch and fold laundry while I watched Malcolm in the Middle.  You didn’t exactly need pants for that.   I hefted the laundry hamper onto my hip and walked into the living room to begin folding.

YOU HATE ME.  I’M SORRY.  I DON’T KNOW WHY, BUT I’M SORRY.

“Artemis, you don’t have to give me that look.  I’m not mad about the fence thing.  Just don’t go out there anymore.  You might get out of their yard and get hit by a car.”

I LOVE YOU.  I DON’T DESERVE YOU.  I LOVE YOU SO MUCH, EVEN THOUGH I DON’T DESERVE YOU.  I NEED TO BE WITH YOU.

“Ooof.  Artemis, no.  Down.  You’re too big to crawl in my lap.”

I NEED TO BE NEAR YOU.  PLEASE.  COMFORT ME.  COMFORT ME BY LETTING ME BE NEAR YOU.  PLEASE LET ME CRAWL ONTO YOUR LAP AND INTO YOUR SOUL.  I LOVE YOU.

“No, Artemis. Off.  Here – you can just lean against me while I fold laundry.”

I NEED TO BE NEAR YOU.  I’M GOING TO PLACE MY HEAD ON YOUR LAP AND LEAN INTO YOU, AND MAYBE IF I PRESS HARD ENOUGH I CAN MERGE SOULS WITH YOU.  PLEASE.  CLOSE ISN’T CLOSE ENOUGH.  I LOVE YOU.

“You can put your head in my lap.  Fine.  Just don’t lean on me so much.  You’re heavy.”

And so we stayed for nearly thirty minutes- the dog leaning her head in my lap with all her might, the laundry slowly getting folded on the couch, and Malcolm in the Middle quietly blaring on the tv.

Only…….

Did you know that a dog’s fur is very effective at transporting the oil from poison oak?  Dogs aren’t allergic to it, but they can bring it into your house.

I learned this the hard way last summer, trying to hunt down how I kept getting infected by poison oak.  It took several weeks before we eradicated most of it in our yard.

Here’s another interesting fact:

Did you know my neighbor’s back yard has poison oak? 

Yeah, I didn’t either.

I think you can see where I’m going with this.  Guess who has poison oak rash all over the inside of her thighs?

It gets better.

Do you know how they say you can’t spread poison oak by scratching?

I have found that to be a lie.  Maybe the blisters contain some kind of an oil, but I seem to have an unusually strong reaction to poison oak, and each time I’m exposed it is a little more severe, and it lasts a little longer.  Two months ago I had some on my wrists that lasted almost 5 weeks and left a little light scarring.  It spread a little bit each day for the first week, until it traveled almost to my elbow. 

The problem is that it usually takes a few days before my poison oak rash blooms into something recognizable – it starts off as a series of small bumps that look almost like mosquito or flea bites.  Unfortunately (and this may just be for me, and not everyone) while it’s at this innocent-looking stage it’s still able to be spread – it’s only when it slowly progresses into the stereotypical welts that ooze that I tend to recognize it, but by then it’s too late.

Anyways, here’s another fun little fact.

Do you know what else is located near your inner thighs?

Oh, yes.  That’s right.

Call it what you want – the love canal.  Cooter.   Muffin.  Honey Pot.  Cooch.  Mommy Parts.  Hoohah.

There are many different names for it, but it all boils down to one fact: 

Life is very, very sad when you have poison oak of the vajayjay.

Bad dog.

VERY bad dog.

    That’s Some Loud Underwear You’ve Got There

    Yay! I got another article published at The Shake.

    I should post it on my blog.

    But wait.  I just posted yesterday.  I should wait a day or two before posting this one.  I’m bad enough about updating regularly – I should spread the love out.  If I start posting twice in one day, they’ll think I’m on some kind of writing spree, and get all spoiled.

    I’ll wait a day.  Yeah, that’s a good idea.

    And then I’ll write a really interesting intro, so it doesn’t feel like I’m just sending them a link and shooing them away.

    Except…. Oh, geez.  SQUID!  THE YOGURT IS NOT FOR FINGERPAINTING THE DOG.  GROSS.  You either eat it or you put it on the counter….NO.  I MEANT EAT THE YOGURT IN THE CONTAINER, NOT LICK IT OFF THE DOG.  STOP.  I’m not joking, little man.  STOP, RIGHT NOW, OR YOU’RE GONNA PUT YOUR NOSE IN THE CORNER UNTIL YOU’RE 20.

    Has he stopped?

    Nope.

    If you’ll excuse me, I’m off to put a kid in the corner.

    Edit:

    I did a little more research and discovered that the undies I wrote on was a marketing prank done by a feminist group to raise awareness of how sexist Victoria’s Secret underwear is…. which, the more I think about it, just makes it seem even sillier.

    I actu
    ally researched it before I wrote about it, but I didn’t do a good enough job. BAD, Becky. Bad. Go get the Cone of Shame.

    Also, I’m bummed, because I missed the chance to make fun of the angry feminists instead of Victoria’s Secret. Boo.

    Ah, well.  It was a good lesson to learn.

    Neat!

    The Shake (an online Australian magazine) published one of my articles.

    COOL.

    It makes me feel like a legit writer, or something.

    Anyways, you can go read it here:

    Click here to read about animal sex, because I’m classy like that.

    Also, in the spirit of “it’s my blog and I feel like bragging on myself”:

    Guess who had a bright red face and cried when she crossed the finish line of her first 10k last Saturday?

    I didn’t even puke afterwards, although there were a few minutes where it was touch and go. 

    I said as much to the bake sale lady while I was sipping water, trying to calm down, and the look on her face reminded me that I really need to find a way to get better at small talk.

    Anyways, I went for a nice, slow run today (and by slow I mean that the DragonMonkey leaned his head back at one point and asked if he could get out and walk beside the stroller) and realized that one day I may even be crazy enough to try a half marathon… or at the very least a Ride and Tie event.

    Maybe I’ll even learn how to cross the finish line without bursting into happy tears.