August 2008

I have been around and involved with horses for many years. I have handled, ridden, and/or trained everything from donkeys to draft horses, wild mustangs to gentle and seasoned show horses, and every age and gender. I have volunteered at mustang adoptions where bloodied, injured, and upset horses are a fact of life. However, last night, S and I experienced a true “first” that I will never forget.

After hearing about an annual event this weekend celebrating the pure spanish horses, we decided to have a date night for once, get a sitter for the kids, and go to the Friday evening performance. I was so excited to watch the dressage and different acrobatics performed by these amazing horses, as well as watching how the trainers cued and handled these well-trained animals. The evening began with a halter demonstration of some very impressive spanish stud (breeding male) horses. They were a variety of colors, but all gorgeous and graceful. This was followed by a Medieval performance of some spanish horses and trainers from a local advanced performance venue. Then the performance got into some dressage performances. If you have never seen dressage, it is amazing. It usually involves some type of classical music, and looks as though the horse is dancing. It is truly the epitome of grace and fluidity in a horse and rider team. We watched several of these dressage displays, and about half way through the evening, were treated to a synchronized dressage performance using two very impressively bred studs. Two horse/rider teams performed identical movements as they stayed very close together. It was beautiful.

As we sat there awestruck, they concluded their performance, the horses bowed to the crowd, and as they turned to leave, one of the horses (the grey one) seemingly stumbled and fell over on his rider. It is very unusual for this to happen, and particularly in such a highly-trained horse. Despite his obvious pain, he very calmly turned and ensured the reins were loose enough for the horse to rise. The horse attempted to rise, giving the rider just enough time to slip his leg out, then fell over again, and appeared to start having a series of seizures. From our viewpoint I am not positive whether it was seizing or struggling against pain, but in either case, we knew it was bad. A bunch of trainers and stable hands immediately ran out and removed his tack, but the horse continued to flail and thrash. We could see his breathing became very labored and slowed to minimal breaths. And then, right in front of our shocked eyes, it was obvious that life left. He died right there in the middle of the arena, probably 30 feet from us.

In the span of about 2 minutes, this amazing horse concluded an amazing performance, bowed, and died. As a vet tech and animal person, I have witnessed and even assisted in countless animals dying. Horses, however, have always had a special place in my heart and I have never experienced the death of one. I actually cried as I watched this horse’s owner and trainer console each other. It became a reminder that no matter how gorgeous, well bred, valuable, or highly trained a horse is, it is still just a horse–susceptible to anything any other horse is. And in the blink of an eye, a dream or way of life can end.

As a side note, I found out this morning, he was diagnosed as having a “cardiac incident” similiar to a human heart attack.

Commandent number 8, and seemingly one of the simplest…Thou shall not steal. Have you ever really thought about what that means? I mean REALLY thought about it? I just got home from church, where we have been going through a series about the Ten Commandments. It has been wonderful, answered many questions I have had for years, not to mention VERY insightful–usually resulting in me walking out with my head hung in shame. It is easy sometimes as a Christian to “rate” myself. I have never committed adultery, murdered, or stolen something from someone. I must be pretty good, right? Through this series, I have learned just how wrong my mortal thinking process is. While each week has been similiarly convicting, I will discuss just this week: theft.

I must give credit for the following to our pastor and church. I was so inspired, however, that I wanted to share. When we hear the term “theft” or “steal,” I think most people think of the taking of a material possession–money, equipment, toys, shoplifting, etc. While theft of material goods certainly qualifies, so do thefts of:

–Time: wasting time rather than working, be it time you are being paid to work or time God has blessed you with to serve Him.
–Purity: taking someone’s purity through innapropriate physical contact, or even emotional purity by flirting, providing innapropriate pictures or literature, or intentionally causing a temptation, etc.
–Reputation: gossip, rumors, etc. Anything that could affect another’s viewpoint of a third party should not be mentioned, whether it is true or not.
–Workplace: not just employee thefts of money, goods, time, etc, but also employer thefts of cheating government or employees of the same.

I know I am very guilty of a couple of those, and pray that God will help me overcome the habitual choices I make all to often that ultimately result in my “stealing.”

Wow, this has been a powerful series. I may have to look into whether I can get CD copies of the whole series for future reference and sharing!

I received yet more advertisements in my neighborhood mailer this week advertising plastic surgery. I hear the industry has really taken a hit with the downturn of the economy, so I guess they are more desperate than ever for new customers. Looking through the different “specials” and “new client packages” got me thinking:

I have joked in the past that if I ever needed another major surgery, I wanted enhancements and a tummy-tuck at the same time. In reality, though, I cannot see myself doing that. I can, however, understand what makes women consider such surgery. I confess, I am not always pleased with what I see in the mirror. After 24 years as a T1 diabetic, either taking injections or wearing a needle 24/7, my body has large areas full of scar tissue. My finger tips are callused over from 24 years of testing my blood up to 12 times a day. The front of my torso looks like a road atlas with all the left-over stretch marks, and although the baby-weight is gone, my skin stretched so badly during my pregnancies that I have sections that just hang there. And I can’t forget the numerous scars from 2 c-sections, a cat bite resulting in surgery, another bite that left several scars (I really should learn to avoid cats!), a huge cut from a nail sticking out of my saddle, and another from sitting on a nail (I should learn to avoid nails as well!), a whole section on the side of my thumb where I cut a chunk off with a knife and sliced open the finger next to it (I have learned to avoid knives! ), and multiple scar spots from years of needles (wish I could avoid those!). Yes, I can understand what inspires women to take such drastic measures.

That being said, I am left wondering, If God created us in His image, and formed us perfectly according to His will, then by seeking out a plastic surgeon, aren’t we unintentionally telling God, “you did not do a good enough job making me, therefore I am going to have a fellow human do it better”? Maybe I am thinking too deeply, but since I live near one of the plastic surgery capitals of the world, I see the ads (and the resulting bodies) EVERYWHERE. I just can’t help but wonder what made a woman so unhappy with her God-created image that she willingly went under the knife (or needle). Sure, God does not cause the injuries, scars, weight gain, etc. that happens during life after creation, but He does create our bodies with the unique healing properties that contribute to the way we look. I happened across a secular article, written by a non-Christian actor. However, his thoughts were interesting to read:

“…As far as I could tell, almost all the women I’d met who had changed their bodies through surgery had either done it to bandage some adolescent body issue or to make themselves more attractive to men. I didn’t like that—it didn’t seem like a celebration of beauty, but a scrambling attempt to fix something. What I wanted was to be with a woman who worshiped herself as much as I worshiped her. I mean, come on, this is the female form here, the most beautiful thing on earth. To me, surgery somehow implied a lack of confidence. It was as if something purchased to say, “Hey, check me out,” actually said, “I don’t like myself very much…” –Actor Gabriel Olds
I pray that I can continue to seek a growing closeness with God, that the enemy might never tempt me to be so unhappy with my body—designed and created uniquely by God’s own hands—that I would allow myself to try to “fix” something that isn’t broken.

I occasionally get into discussions with fellow moms about house cleaning and organizing, and we wind up comparing techniques and offering up our ” secrets.” Since I happened to be doing a lot of cleaning today, I thought I would offer a few of the “secrets” I have learned over the last few years that have made my life MUCH easier (and cleaner!)

–Mr. Clean Magic Erasers are AWESOME!! They easily remove not only grime and dirt on walls, but soap scum from shower doors and bathtubs, grime from floor tiles, grime from around drains, and even the smelly goop that seems to collect on the rubber going into the garbage disposal. About the only place I don’t like to use them is on mirrors and windows, as they leave streaks really bad.

–Monthly menu: Many women talk about creating a weekly menu, and I have heard many versions of this. After some trial and error, I decided to develop a menu for the whole month. Each week has 2 “FREE” days for either date night or leftover cleanup. This allows me several advantages: we only eat the same meal once a month, so we never tire of it; I rarely have one of those “I haven’t even thought about what to make for dinner” nights; I am able to save a lot of money by shopping more efficiently and using what I buy. Since we have gone organic, I actually shop at 2 different stores. I go to the the base commissary (cheaper prices on a pretty good selection of organics) and buy all my staples and non-perishables for the whole month. This includes things like bread (I hope to start making my own eventually) which can be frozen. Then, once a week, I go to the organic store for dairy and produce supplies. Since I have started this routine, I rarely throw any food out. Some additional tips are to buy one or two extra “quick” meals like spaghetti for an evening when something unexpected comes up and you don’t have much dinner prep time. Also, I have now progressed to having 2 monthly menus, one for warmer weather and one for cooler weather (has more soup nights). When we first started using the menus, I think I cut my grocery budget by about 35%. We then turned around and put that 35% back into the food so we could go organic. So we eat healthier, feel better, and waste less.

–Wipes: My latest discovery was something I read on a forum and decided to give it a shot. I LOVE it!! I put a container of Lysol cleaning wipes in each bathroom, and one in the kitchen. Everytime I see a mess, I grab a wipe and clean it up. I have always despised cleaning bathrooms, hated using papertowels or washcloths without gloves (especially on the toilets!), and procastinated way too long between cleanings. Now, it is so convenient that my bathrooms stay relatively clean.–even the kids’ bathroom, which used to get gunked up pretty quickly. Then once a week or so, I give a quick scrub with the toilet brush, wipe down everything, and move on. I can now clean all 3 bathrooms in my periodic “thorough” cleaning in about 15 minutes (not counting tubs, which take a bit longer). Plus, they always smell fresh without the fake perfume smell of other chemicals (yeah, I tried the Febreeze route for a while).

Those are my 3 favorite tips. If you have any you would like to add, feel free. I love hearing about anything that could make my life easier and cleaner!

Don’t blink or you might miss something when it comes to children!

A had several firsts this week. Monday, he wasn’t quite right all day–fussing, screaming, not eating well, sleeping more than usual. I suspected he had his first bug, and sure enough, half way through his evening bottle, he puked (I’m talking projectile!) all over me. Totally missed himself, and barely missed S! I gave his tummy a break that night, and fed him only breastmilk all day Tuesday (Thanks Aunt P!!). Today, he seemed back on track, so, he had his first rice cereal today (originally planned for Monday). He didn’t take to it very quickly, so I tried again later. He did better, but seems to enjoy gagging himself more than swallowing it. M never did take to rice cereal, but did great when I moved on to veggies. I will keep trying with A and see what happens.

M finally seems to be getting over her whiny/fussy form of communication. It was driving me nuts, and “Use your words!” was becoming a common phrase around here. Finally! For the last few days, she seems to be using words better. We aren’t totally fuss-free, but have improved significantly! In addition, she has started trying to say little prayers when we pray (OK, so she just mumbles something under her breath, but it’s a start!), and she has been trying to count 1-5 and sing her ABC’s. She learns so much by watching JR.

JR can read! What else can I say? That is our big news. He is now on book #4 in the Bob’s books series, and he just completed lesson #10 tonight on his computer phonics program. It is so much fun to listen to him sound out words, and now he is starting to recognize familiar words and blends and is reading so much faster. I am just thrilled! And he is not even 4 yet!

Time is flying by so quickly that I was afraid I would miss something. Therefore, I am happy to report I actually pulled out my scrapbook stuff today and did some catching up. I updated M’s baby album, S’s career album, and am now working on A’s baby album.

I have always half-joked that I was born into the wrong era. I always wanted to ride my horse into town, raise my own critters, and work the farm. OK, so I admit I like some modern luxuries such as toilet paper and indoor plumbing. According to my mom, toilet paper should not be considered a luxury, but after a recent outdoor wilderness experience where I was forced to “use” a rock, believe me, TP is a wonderful luxury!! Anyway, our family life seems to be gradually taking a turn toward the desires my blood has always had. We have our little farm, it happens to be riding distance to the nearest town, and it is perfect in many ways for “homesteading”. So I have been researching how far we want to go with this new endeavor, and we are loving the idea. We have already taken our diet to about 95% organic, I have already learned to plan my meals a month at a time, I shop only once a week, we try to conserve and recycle what we can, we are pretty thrifty financially, and I have the passion for animals, while S has the passion for manual outdoor labor. This could work.

Some of you may think me crazy, but we are considering trying it all–from growing our own organic fruits, herbs, and veggies in our little (already planned) garden and orchard, to canning seasonal items for later use, to building a “summer kitchen, ” to raising our own horses, cows, goats, pigs, and chickens. The chickens are good for meat, eggs, and pet food–and did you know there is a such thing as a chicken plucker now? You don’t have to spend hours plucking feathers by hand anymore. The plucker does it in under 30 seconds! Pretty neat actually. It tenderizes the meat a little in the process. The cows will likely be the Dexter breed, as we have a supplier nearby with a bull, they are small and easy to manage, and they are good for both meat and milk. The goats and hogs I wouldn’t be as interested in except that they are so versatile. Goats are browsers, and therefore basically eat the stuff the horses and cows won’t, which is more efficient on a farm. When their work is done, they provide meat, milk, and apparently pretty good revenue from the kids. The hogs and chickens are great for churning up compost and garden soils. Hogs are later good for meat or piglets for sale. So the more animal labor we can put on our farm, the more food we have and less gasoline and modern equipment we have to use. All the animals will be grass-fed and as natural as possible. Even our predator control will likely consist of an adopted burro, as apparently they have an instinctual hatred toward dogs and other predators. I may consider a few guineas as well, as they are safer than peacocks, but make great alarm systems when predators are around. Chicken losses are a big problem on free-range homesteads. I figure with raw milk, fresh cheese, yogurt, and whatever other dairy I can learn to make, produce, meat from cattle, goat, hog, wild turkey and venison (all over our farm), I think we can basically do everything except grow our own hay and grains.

We have already started gutting the front half of our barn and have been trying to decide how best to set it up. It looks like I will keep the horses in the back half, and set up a tack room, work area, and milking stanchion in the front. The chicken coop will also likely work very well attached to a hidden corner of the barn. I am so excited to start this project! I just wish it wasn’t going to take 5 years or more to see it all come together!

We have had a great week this week. Our tumbling class wound up being canceled, but we had a good well-check for M and A later that day, then we did some indoor putt-putt with other military wives (S and the kids played ahead of us “wives”) on Tuesday. Wednesday we took a field trip with the homeschool group to an orchard, where we picked zucchini, tomatoes, cucumber, and apples. The apples, fully ripe, were less than 2 inches diameter. Smallest I have ever seen, but perfect kid size! Thursday I had a sitter and went to a mom’s night out with the homeschool group. It consisted of a desert social and board games. I had WWAAYY more fun than I thought I would and feel like I have found a great group of ladies to help mentor me through this process. It was wonderful seeing how much we all had in common, hearing all the different styles, and yet still seeing how everyone comes was there with the same hope of giving their children the best Biblical education possible. I look forward to the next meet.

As far as our homeschooling, JR can now read through the first 2 Bob books, and is just so proud of himself. It is sometimes hard to get him excited about learning, but the other day he said he wanted some gum after reading his book. I agreed and now seem to have unknowingly signed a deal with him to allow him gum after he reads his book. The downside for me is I HATE bribery, but the upside is that JR truly seems to be having fun and looks forward to his “reward” after. I guess that is not all bad. I suppose I can wean him off when I have to. I did at least get him to agree to only half a piece. Gum is normally such a rare treat for him, you’d think he was celebrating a major gift-giving holiday when he gets that little treat. Anyway, he is on lesson 7 of his computer phonics. We are moving slowly, as I want to make sure he is understanding what he is doing. He seems to be sounding most of his letters pretty well, but gets stuck on the listening skills part and putting sounds together to form unfamiliar words. He does better when I sit with him and repeat the sounds. He seems to get more excited with each book he completes though, so I think that will keep him motivated enough. He is also doing great with his numbers. We now have 1-10 very consistent (though he occasionally still gets 6 and 9 mixed up, he is OK with 11-19 and 20-29, though we are working on those daily, and today I introduced the “tens” (20, 30, 40, 50, ……,90). He seems to enjoy doing his cards, though I have no idea why! Maybe it’s because his math is followed up with his reading a Bob book, which is followed by gum. Who knows?

Between school sessions today I have even managed to get 2 of the 3 bathrooms cleaned (including some digusting filth on the bottom of a toilet that remained from the previous owner!), catch a lizard that sent M running and screaming from her bathroom, took the trash to the curb, did some laundry, cleaned my kitchen, and researched my latest project. It’s been a good week!

We have been gradually getting used to the idea of homeschooling–introducing computer phonics here, reading there, flashcards here, Bible story there… get the idea. Well, today, we had our first official scheduled homeschool day. It went quite well, if I may say so. I have tried to plan our day with free time and chores in between each “subject.” After feeding A, we had our Bible story time. We did our pledges, then JR did his computer phonics lesson while M and I read a book. JR loves to help with laundry–well, in typical boy style, he loves to throw it down the laundry chute. It is one of the highlights of his week. After laundry was math, so JR and I reviewed his numbers 1-20, shapes, and he threw in a little drawing for fun. M got to watch her Veggie Tales video, or “Bo-Larry” (for Bob the tomato and Larry the cucumber). Then came the combo art and bible lesson. After playing a game with money, we learned about the temple offerings and the widow who gave her last 2 coins. JR then began learning his very first memory verse…”Worship the Lord, Psalm 96:9″ Few things have made me as proud as hearing him recite it to his daddy over dinner! This was followed by him reading his second book from the “Bob’s books” series. Then came music and activity, which in actuality consists of turning on fun kid songs and mommy trying desperately to teach the motions associated with each song. I lasted through “Father Abraham” and was so exhausted I gave up and just let the kids dance to their own beat!

Each lesson only lasts about 10-15 minutes, so it is amazing how quickly my day went by. But the kids were exhausted, napped well, and I even got a few things done around the house. I will have to work on that area though. I am used to focusing on my chores until they are done, but now I only have minutes between each lesson, so I have to do partial chores in some cases. We’ll see how the rest of the week goes.

Life here has been an adjustment so far. S’s new hours are a real pain for me to plan around, and I feel like I never see him. Since I don’t know anyone else here, and for the first time, I am without a horse or CM to keep me busy and help me meet people, it has been a very lonely period. With lots of prayer (and encouragement from S), though, I am finally starting to feel like I am adjusting. I have enrolled the kids in a tumbling class once a week to get us out of the house. I have hooked up with the wives network here and am slowly meeting people that way. I have also joined a homeschool group and will be attending our first activity next week. I am looking forward to that. In addition, we have finally decided on a church and hope to start plugging in there. I have registered for a Christian convention, which will telecast all over the US, but the actual event is here! I am just crossing my fingers that I can meet someone to go with so I don’t go 2 days without talking to anyone! I would go nuts!

In other news, we finalized A’s adoption 2 weeks ago, which has been a huge relief! He got his first haircut the following week, when I just couldn’t take the fluff anymore (the photo is AFTER I took off HALF his length!).

We also celebrated M’s 2nd b-day last week. It is so hard to believe how fast time has gone! We just had a little party, made cupcakes from scratch (they were awful!), and of course, JR was jealous and wanted to have his b-day party too.

S will be heading off to Red Gate to visit his mom in a couple weeks. He is pretty excited about that. I will stay here with the kids and eagerly await his return.

I recently saw a caption that read, “What God calls us to do, He equips us to do.” I want to make that my new motto in life. It seems He has called us to do some seemingly crazy things over the last year, but we rest confident knowing that it all fits into His ultimate purpose for our lives.
The latest calling is to homeschool. I have felt convicted about it for some time, and finally made a “deal” that I would homeschool if public school was the only option, but if there was a good Christian private school, then that would be the way to go. When we arrived here in N, I begin searching for good schools and was thrilled to find several. The prices on the other hand, were not so thrilling–between $4000 and $8000 for a 3 hour day!! OUCH! Also, most places had no openings. Nonetheless, we narrowed our choice to one that seemed really good and had 2 openings left. I turned in the paperwork and application fee, still feeling the nagging voice calling me to homeschool. Then S and I prayed hard that God would show us which way to go. The next morning I received a call that the school was full. S and I decided that was our answer, and we were supposed to homeschool. I immediately had such a peace wash over me. That’s not to say I wasn’t really nervous–I mean, I am now responsible for my children’s education. That is a HUGE responsibility! But what He calls us to do, He equips us to do. I began reading every book I could find, feeling more confident with each one. I came up with an education plan (though I am still piecing together the final details), and we have started experimenting with our “school day.” Just 2 days ago, I was blessed to witness my 3 yr old son read his first book. It was a little Bob’s Book first reader, and for the first time, JR sounded out and read each word all by himself! It brought tears to my eyes, and comfort to know that, with God’s help, I can pull this off!

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