Confessions of a less than enthusiastic horse show Mom

Confession: I never wanted to be a horse show Mom. Don’t tell my daughter.

I showed horses in 4-H for close to ten years. It was never something I loved but I didn’t hate it either (most the time). 4-H, specifically horses, was just what you did in my family, every summer from the age of nine through eighteen or until you got bored with it.

And it wasn’t bad. Sure show days were long (so so long!), often stressful and always exhausting, horses are hard work, but showing through 4-H taught me a lot about myself and about life. I gained skills and made friendships that are still going strong twenty years later. I built relationships with amazing adults who volunteered their time to keep our county’s 4-H program running. Some of them didn’t even have kids in 4-H. I had the opportunity to learn about work ethic, responsibility, and community in a hands on, concrete way.

Showing horses and being in 4-H was a big and influential part of my childhood. But when my daughter was turning nine and my sister, who never got out of horses and 4-H, asked if my daughter was interested in showing I hesitated. I wanted to say no. I remembered the time and the stress and the cost, the way showing took over our lives from May through August. I thought about the danger, the inherent risk of riding and managing a large beast.

And yet here I am. Five years later sitting in a camper after the first full day of fair. Thirteen straight hours of showing in the heat and the dust and the sun surrounded by cranky younger siblings who have been drug along for ride and a gaggle of stressed and exhausted parents and club leaders. What happened?

I remembered my daughter’s innate love of horses.

I thought about the value of responsibility and community: two things inherent in any 4-H animal project that seem to be disappearing in this crazy, chaotic world where anything goes as long as it makes you “happy”.

I wondered how many other opportunities my daughter would have to set goals and work towards achieving them in a safe, supportive environment.

And I said yes to 4-H and showing horses (okay maybe I said a skeptical “I guess” to 4-H).

I’d be lying if I said I’ve enjoyed every moment of the past five years as a 4-H horse show parent. Of course there have been fun, exciting, and rewarding times. There has also been tension and stress, long days at horse shows when I have five other things I’d rather be doing, and more emotional ups and downs than a TV reality show. In end I consider it an investment and hope that 4-H will help shape my girl, my young woman really, into a responsible, kind and hard working individual.

So when you happen to catch barrel racing on ESPN 15 or whatever or you see Olympic three day eventing or come across a social media post with a video of a high level dressage performance set to music and they all make it look easy, know it’s not. That athlete working with their amazing four-legged partner probably started out as a tiny 4-H kid. Their parent stood ringside and watched with their hearts in their throat as that kid rode a bucking pony across the ring or took on a jump at a seemingly reckless pace. And know that for every elite rider there are a hundred, maybe a thousand, kids who spent their summers at the fairgrounds in show rings and went on to use what they learned there to become a successful adult. So even though I didn’t want to be a horse show Mom, I never planned to come back to this, I’m here. Investing in my kids through 4-H.

Rally the Troops

Sometimes a seemingly random occurrence is actually preparing us for something further down the road. Maybe much further.

This dawned on  me tonight as a large bat was swooping around my workplace. Said workplace is a house but, still, bats = Not Cool! Not cool at all. But luckily I was prepared because I’ve dealt with bats in the house before (my own house that time and it really was not fun). While my coworker was legitimately freaking out I knew exactly what to do. (Open one door, turn off all the lights except by that door, and try to gently direct the bat out if it isn’t finding the exit on its own. In case you were wondering.) And, although it was a terrifying ten to fifteen minutes, we had the bat out in ten to fifteen minutes. Had I not had previous bat encounters this night could have been a lot worse. I’m not sure I could handle a lot worse right now; just being at work is bad enough.

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The giant bat: An interaction with him is NOT my ideal night at work.

This week is one of those off the charts crazy weeks. Really it’s been the last two weeks. Last Wednesday, after furiously studying for way less time than I should have, I took the DAT to complete my dental school application. It went decently well and I was extremely relieved to have that out of the way but I had to hit the ground running with graduation open house planning as soon as the test was over.

My oldest son graduated from high school this spring (on my birthday). At the time he was adamant that he did not want an open house. I told him too bad; the open house isn’t for him, it’s for his family and all the people who have supported and encouraged him over the years to celebrate our  his achievements. He reluctantly conceded to a party. I think he realized that I wasn’t backing down on this and he really didn’t have much choice. After being invited to a few of his friends’ & classmates’ open houses he warmed to the idea…especially after he heard how much his one buddy got at his open house. (Apparently he didn’t believe me when I told him people give you money at these things.)

Because of the aforementioned test and my daughter’s horse shows there weren’t any feasible open house dates in June but my son’s 18th birthday fell on a Friday AND it was not one leading up to a work weekend for me. I pitched the idea of a graduation open house/18th birthday celebration to my son and he actually seemed to like it. Well, that weekend is this weekend. The open house is Saturday (technically tomorrow as it’s 3 a.m. right now) and my son’s birthday is…well, now. Unfortunately this not being a work weekend means I’ve worked the seven, maybe eight, days leading up to the weekend (including tonight, obvs). Not short shifts either, ten to twelve hour night shifts. This schedule is really not conducive to preparing for an open house.

Way back at the launch of the open house planning process I emailed my ex husband asking if we could collaborate on this. Not only would that make it more affordable but we could divide and conquer the work. Plus planning an open house together provided an opportunity for a much needed exercise in cooperation for us. Even though we’ve been divorced for three and a half years and separated for over five, there is only bare minimum communication between us and even that is tense and unpleasant. At some point we’ve got to get past that. Our kids can’t have two of everything. I mean, are they going to have two weddings: once for their dad’s family, once for mine??? NO! Sadly though my ex  did not see things the same way and declared that I could do what I wanted and he’d “Celebrate separately”. This, of course, left me running the graduation party show all on my own.

And once again lessons learned in prior life experiences came back around in a real and useful way.

Implementing a graduation party at my house (which is not typically visitor ready) in ten days or less seemed like No Big Deal…until I was staring down the barrel of those ten days. I got a little overwhelmed, paralyzed by how much work there was to get done in a short week that was already full with work. Holy, holy crap!

Just as I was on the brink of sheer panic my instincts kicked in and I did what I do more and more when I need help. I called my mom.

To be fair, a couple people had already asked what I needed help with but I wasn’t even ready to think about that until the DAT was out of the way. But now, roughly a week before Open House day, I needed the help! I’m insanely lucky (blessed?) to have a large, supportive family. Throughout the stressful, somewhat traumatic process of the dissolution of my almost twelve year marriage and the subsequent divorce and custody hearings I learned just how helpful and supportive my family is. We aren’t touchy-feely people, my family; we don’t verbally express our love and appreciation for each other. Not very often and when it does happen it’s a sign of deep concern. But that doesn’t mean those feelings (or whatever you want to call them…talking about feelings so much is starting to make me a little uncomfortable) don’t exist. It’s just that we’re Do-ers, not say-ers. The things we don’t say we show by doing, by being there when needed.

My mom offered to pick up meat and taco seasoning from me and cook all the taco meat (I’m having a taco bar at the party); my youngest sister spent a day and a half cleaning up my house and hacking away at brush in my yard; one of my brothers-in-law is coming over tomorrow to help set up the yard stuff; other people offered to bring something, to contribute. And suddenly I was not alone in this crazy endeavor.

And that is a thing worth remembering. Sometimes all you have to do is reach out and accept the help you need.

graduation selfie

Awkward graduation selfie because, much like the open house, my son was not entirely on board with this.

 

 

Really I CAN bake, really

Since graduating from nursing school I’ve had some time on my hands. It’s been weird. I’ve slowly been going back to old hobbies….and watching an obscene amount of Netflix. (On a side note, I just love “The Flash.”)

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That being said, one afternoon I decided to make cookies. I went rummaging through my cupboard to see what I had on hand. I decided to make oatmeal butterscotch cookies from the bag of the butterscotch chip bag. It was a cookie fail. They were crumbly and either undercooked or overcooked. The flavor was good but the cookies just kinda fell apart.

The thing is, I really can bake! I swear! I have photographic and blog proof! There was this cheesecake, these balls, this other cheesecake, and I just made a beautiful fruit tart and scones. Here’s proof!

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I used a Paula Dean recipe for this. It was amazing! Like really amazing- with butter, sugar and fruit how could you go wrong?!

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These were also quite tasty. I just googled an English scone recipe. 

See, I can bake! And usually things turn out. I don’t even know what I messed up with the cookies but now I’m feeling the urge to redeem myself. I sent the lacking oatmeal butterscotch cookies to work with my boyfriend. A bunch of guys will eat almost anything! (and they did taste good, they were just a mess)

Bathroom Reno Part 2

It seems I am blogging about this bathroom renovation project at a rate that is proportionally slow to the progress I’m making on it. So as a reminder here are a couple “before” pictures:

And here’s the post about the destruction of this beaut (in case you missed it).

When I was looking ahead, tiling the floor appeared to be the most challenging and intimidating aspect of this endeavor, well, that and sawing. It turns out it was the most fun.

I had to start with a layer of thin set/mortar (they’re the same thing..Hey, it was news to me.) and cement backer board. My brother-in-law came over and helped with the cutting and manhandling of the backer board. Once we got it all cut and ready we headed back to his house to celebrate my niece’s birthday; later that night I had my first experience with mortar. It was fun. There’s something sort of zen about raking even lines through some smooth, grey mortar and then squishing it all down with a board. Joint tape is pretty fun too.

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Even with only the backer board down it’s an improvement.

And then, of course, that had to set for twenty-four hours. Almost everything does, turns out home improvement is yet another provider of lessons about patience.

During the destruction of the bathroom I saw that my toilet flange was broken around one edge. My brother-in-law none too gently hacked out the rest of it and, in the process, notices what looked like a crack in the drain pipe beneath it.

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I spent a morning stressing, Googling, and phoning a friend over those little lines down in that pipe. After assessing how difficult it would be to cut the pipe out and replace it but before actually starting to cut I decided to take a step back and apply a classic mantra: Keep it simple, stupid! (One of the very few things I retained from high school math.) After one more assessment and some basic reasoning I realized the pipe was not in fact busted, those were just seams. Crisis averted…but morning wasted. Doh! At least the flange was easy to replace. I got one with a built in rubber gasket that just slides inside the existing drain pipe.

By this time it was Wednesday evening (week one). I’ve got class until mid afternoon Thursday and the kids come back from their dad’s Thursday evening. It was becoming obvious that I was not going to have the bathroom back together by then. Ah well, onward and upward right?

Because my bathroom is on the small side I laid out all the tiles to see how they’d fit. I took some helpful YouTube video’s advice and measured the center of the room, laid a line of vertical and then another of horizontal tiles, adjusting as needed to fit before filling in the rest. I preferred the look of the tiles flush with the tub on one side which left about a two and a half inch gap on the other. There was a matching gap on the short wall that’s perpendicular to the door. I have a random assortment of smaller tiles in my basement, my first instinct was to see if any would fit. The closest I got was some 1×1 inch green tiles but they were thicker than the main ones and there wasn’t even close to enough for both spaces. Obviously a no-go but I liked the idea of a smaller tile mosaic border.

But first things first, I needed to cut some tiles to fit around the toilet opening, along the back wall, and around the floor vent space. I done mentioned my saw intimidation, turns out it was a non issue. My nice neighbor has a tile saw and was happy to lend it to me/teach me how to use it. Cutting the few tiles was really no big deal at all! I got that finished and the tiles refit Thursday just in time to pause and go pick up the kids. Little did they know it was going to be a frozen pizza, not even sit down together, dinner night. I had tiles to set!

Again with the thin set.

I was a little worried that I hadn’t used enough thin set with the backer boards (time will tell I guess) so maybe I overcompensated when I was laying the tile. At first I was making a giant mess but after a few I got the hang of spreading an even layer of mortar, raking it, and applying the tiles and spacers in an orderly fashion. My youngest thought the process was pretty cool and “helped” some. Mostly he watched but I did let him press a few tiles into place.

And then it was time to wait for the materials to set. Again. Friday and Saturday were both busy days and (I was working Friday night) so other than pulling the spacers out, nothing happened until Sunday…

On Sunday morning I got up early (for me), made my coffee and tried out some edging layouts with the glass/stone mosaic tile sheets I had picked up.

br2-edging-tile       These things are not cheap but I only needed two sheets. Also they’re apparently mostly used for back splashes and wall tiling but I found at least one website that talked about doing mosaic tiling on floors and the sides of the room are little to no traffic areas. Plus they’re the same thickness as the other tiles which, from what I could tell, was a key factor.

They were a little messy to put down and I definitely used a little too much thin set in a couple areas making them less than even but all in all the results aren’t too bad.

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I definitely like the what they add to the aesthetic of the bathroom..

Yes, I know, the walls are terrible. That’s something to take care of later in the process. After all the edging tiles were down I left them alone for a while and later that afternoon we grouted. BTW grout is Not the same as thin set. It also takes a lot of water to a little powder. My fifteen year old was roped into helping me with the grouting and we learned that the hard way. Let’s just say we had some extra grout mixed when all was said and done.

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Also, grouting is a messy, messy process. It cleaned up a little better than what you see there. After a day or two of letting the grout set, I applied a sealer. It was really not too exciting and didn’t change the appearance at all so I took zero pictures of that. I did take some of the purple paint on the back wall.

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Not the finished painting, obvs.

 

With the floor done and some paint on the wall it was time to start putting this thing back together. Well, at least get the toilet back in. It’s still not quite back together…but I’ll tell you more about the details of that another time.

Traveling Forward

 

It’s about 11:30 Sunday night and I’m not looking forward to Monday morning, this one more so than usual. It’s an After-Break-Monday. Not only did we have the weekend off but the kids have had a whole week off school and I had half a week. On top of that we went on a vacation, a real live, legitimate vacation. Well, as close as it gets. We left Tuesday evening around eight-thirty and drove 11 hours overnight to get to Georgia where two of my sisters, a brother-in-law, and a two-year-old nephew live. My parents started down Monday with two of my kids, my youngest sister and I followed with the other three. On Wednesday my youngest brother flew into Atlanta as well. It was basically the traditional family Thanksgiving displaced by five states. Maybe just a little smaller. I think we only had fifteen people at dinner. That’s small for my giant family.

So we went on vacation and celebrated Thanksgiving but come morning it’s back to reality. Reality has been stressing me out lately; I’m tired of reality. Life seems to be in one of those weird flux states where major changes are on the horizon, possible paradigm shift level changes. Except it’s not clear what those changes are going to be or what I should be doing to make them happen. Like most changes, this one (or maybe these ones) are driven by discomfort. Nothing really changes when everything feels okay does it?

For one, I’m almost done with school. The Bachelor’s degree part of it at least. Still no word on dental school (other than that they’ve received my application but that’s old news). I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t driving me a little crazy and stressing me out quite a bit. It’s at the prepare for the worst while hoping for the best phase now. More than half the interview sessions have taken place; realistically I need to be looking at what to do to improve my chances when I apply again in the next cycle, such as retaking the DAT. Jeez, why can’t I just get invited to interview already?!? I really don’t want to take that again. (said in an appropriately whiny voice) And I’m not sure I can afford to retake it. I mean, I can’t afford not to but i have no idea how I’m going to pay for it….which leads me to the next area of stress and uncertainty in my life: my job.

I’m still chugging away at the same third shift, part-time job that I’ve had for the past five years and it’s fine, but I’ve only got one class this coming semester. It’s the last two credits I need to graduate and I’ve decided to pay out of pocket for the class instead of taking another extra class to qualify for financial aid. On paper it’s a smart move but my pockets are a little empty right now. I’ll only have one day a week of classes starting in January, it’s time to either bump up my hours at work (if that’s even a possibility) or look for a new, full-time job. Maybe one in the field I’m graduating in. I have no idea how that process works though and if, on the very off chance, I do still get into dental school this year I’d only be working for a few months. However, if I don’t get into dental school I’ll have to start paying on my student loans in June(ish)…It might be time to pay the piper and that’s a scary thought.

Heck, the whole new job idea is scary!

I’m having trouble even fathoming what hours I’m available to work and what I’d like to do or maybe, more practically thinking, what I’m qualified to do. Not to mention how one even goes about finding a “real” job. Agh, so much unknown! Hopefully I’ll find something that will support my family a little more comfortably than we’ve been (it would be nice to actually pay medical bills when they come in instead of saving them all for tax time), something during day time hours that doesn’t require working the whole weekend every other weekend. That would be ideal…but even that’s intimidating. There’s a part of me that worries finding a normal, 9-5ish day job will make me so…so…I don’t know, ordinary?

My schedule has been pretty damn insane for the past five years. I went from working 74 nighttime hours in seven days and having seven days off to working 40 hours over the weekend every other weekend so I could go to school Monday through Friday as needed. When I went part time three years ago I was so relieved not to be working the seven days anymore, that’s a good sign that I shouldn’t just settle back into something like that again. I’m burned out on working nights and weekends but I don’t know if I know how to have a “normal” job and manage my life. It would certainly be very different for me. I’d have to run in the evenings or *gasp* early mornings  like all you other poor schmucks. I’ll have to grocery shop on the weekends or late at night. Weird! So weird!

It’s time to move forward, to transition and adapt. It’s a good thing. Having free weekends would be downright amazing. Not being overly stressed about paying my bills would be a giant relief. I just need to wade through this mess of fear and self-doubt that’s anchoring my feet to the ground, immobilizing me in my tracks. It’ll happen. I’ll get there one uncertain step at a time. In the meantime I’m avoidance cleaning today. I got a new vacuum cleaner and it’s amazing! So there’s that.

And to wrap this somewhat distracted but of drivel up, here are a some more pics from the trip to Georgia including Stone Mountain and a Thanksgiving day “Gobble Jog” fun run in Marietta.

On Castles and Capes

Did you know there are castles in Ohio? OHIO! Of all the places!

My kids and I took a trip to Dayton over Labor Day weekend to visit our friends there (well, my friends really but I’m working on making them my kids’ friends as well). A few weeks earlier my daughter had pointed out that we hadn’t really gone anywhere this summer and asked for a road trip. Any kind of road trip would do but she’d like to leave the state. So we made plans to trek south to the Not-as-great-as-Michigan state of Ohio. Shortly before our trip I made the serendipitousl discovery  of castles in Ohio (on Pinterest of all places). Granted some of them are more castle-esque manors than actual castles, at least one of them is a legit castle.

 

While definitely a castle this thing is relatively young. Some super smart dude who was very into architecture, like five degree into it, moved to Ohio after serving in World War I and started building The Loveland castle in 1930. He worked on it until his death in 1981.

castle-j-5He might have lived there and the place was and is open to Boy Scout groups camping on the grounds and also is the world headquarters for this order of knights the guy started. Now it seems to mostly function as a tourist attraction and wedding site. The inside of the castle is not very ornate but it’s done in tenth century Normandy style so that seems appropriate. The gardens are pretty cool though and it has an active bee hive area. That’s not open to visitors but my daughter claims to have snuck back there. In addition the castle is located on one of Ohio’s many rivers and a small county park with canoe access is right in front of the castle. So one could theoretically canoe to a castle. How cool is that?

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My daughter, always the explorer, found some hike-able terrain near the river bank.

On Labor Day, the day after we returned home, my family was having one of its massive birthday dinners. This time it was only for four people and I had gifts for three of the four with the fourth being my one-year-old niece. I figured I could whip something up in the hour of free time I had Monday morning but was having trouble (and wasting precious making time) deciding what. A series of random texts to my sister revealed that the birthday girl did not have use for bibs and was not need any clothing items. I thought about making an apron or some baby doll clothes but wasn’t thrilled with contributing to the socialization of little girls to be the cookers and cleaners-up of the world while ..I was slightly stumped until I remembered the cape I had made for my daughter when she was little and how much she loved it. I’ve made other capes as quick birthday gifts over the years and they’re always a hit. Plus they’re pretty quick to make. Bonus!

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The lavender material was left over from a fabric dying project in my daughter’s art class last spring. I butted the bottom of the cape up to the already hemmed edge to minimize mundane sewing and maximize construction efficiency. After doing a small rolled hem on the sides, I cut a two inch wide strip of fleece for the neckline. Rolling that over the top (which I roughly hemmed to prevent fraying and fabric degradation)made a nice soft neckline which was finished off by a couple of pieces of red ribbon.

I fee handed a large block M from some other leftover fabric, attached mid-weight fusible interfacing, and used a zig-zag stitch around the edges to attach it to the center of the cape.

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Ba-da-bing, ba-daBang!

While it’s rather large for the one-year-old, it fit her big sister perfectly.

 

Methinks another cape might be in order next spring when this girl has a birthday. Different letter of course.

Some castle garden pics for the road…

 

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The actual birthday girl who will be swimming in her new cape for at least another year.