Monday, September 29, 2014

A little teasing...

Sometimes I mess with my kids.  Just a little bit.  They always think it's funny. 

Usually when I move the kids up in size of clothing, I just do it all at once.  I take all the old clothes out of the closet, then grab my stash of the next size up, and restock the closet.  It takes a couple of hours to do all this, but I think it's easier than doing it in bits and pieces.

Last time I was doing this, and the floor was completely covered in clothes, Pierce happened to walk in the room.

I looked at him and said, "Pierce!  Why did you make this huge mess in your room?!"  His eyes got really wide and he looked shocked.  His jaw dropped.

I smiled.  Then he realized I was messing with him.  He started cracking up.  He loves it when I mess with him, once he figures it out. 

Readers, do you mind when you get teased? 

Friday, September 26, 2014

Baby Dinosaurs

Here are the boys, in a dinosaur egg sculpture at the NC Zoo (picture taken in August).
I could have done a big zoo post, but instead I've been straggling out the pictures in random posts.  A little easier on me, a little easier on my readers!

When I was in high school, I loved this 80s movie called Better Off Dead.  I hadn't thought of that movie in years, but recently remembered it.  I got it from the library, and Paul and I were both amused by the classic cheesy 80s humor.  I was surprised to find that I still remembered many lines.

This month I hit 1000 miles for the year with my running.  September is the earliest I have ever hit 1000 miles.  If I can stay injury-free, I should have a good mileage year.  Even if I am still not racing.

Everyone keeps saying this is going to be a another bad winter.  This gives me anxiety.  I worry about balancing the jobs with kids home from school and snowy roads.  I hope it all works out.  With one job, it isn't a big deal if I have to cancel (I just feel bad because my client relies on me so much).  But with the teaching job, if they don't close the school I need to be there if at all possible, so that's a little more tricky. I will just have to hope that if we do get big snows, it isn't on my teaching days! 

Linking up with Tanya's Willy Nilly Friday for the first time this week. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Desensitization in the Young Horse

I mentioned recently that Francie is very spooky.  She freaks out of birds flying by, the sound of my voice, cars turning in the driveway.  You name it - it might be spaz-worthy.

I decided some desensitization was in order.  I remember doing similar activities with Phoenix when I was training him twenty years ago.  I do this a little more gradually than some of the horse trainers, but I do feel gentle exposure to intimidating things is helpful later on.  Also, just going through the process of facing the monsters with a horse helps to strengthen the trust bond. 
I created some 'scary' obstacles in the arena.  Francie didn't have much trouble with my first creations, so I decided to up the scare factor.  I went out and bought....a scary blue tarp.  You can see - just riding by the blue tarp was terrifying. 

One thing especially horrifying about the blue tarp is that when you step on it, it makes crunchy noises.

Horses don't like the noise.  Or the color.  I just keep reassuring her.  This helps strengthen the trust bond between us.  Francie learns that I'm hear to support her when life gets scary.  She knows I am by her side to offer kind encouragement.

Francie wants to rush across everytime.   
On this day, it was raining, and the light drizzle made more noises on the tarp.

My brave girl.
After a few days of repeated blue tarp exposure, Francie finally let me ride her over the tarp.
Gentle, repeated exposure to intimidating things really does work.
You don't have to force them.
Just reassure, and keep trying.
A little each day is fine, in my experience.
What a good girl.
Next up?
A scary pool noodle contraption.
Fun times!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Young Farmer's Crossing

I took this picture at the Homestead Creamery this summer.  We went there when the boys earned free ice cream cones from doing a summer reading program.  Really, though, we don't need any reason to go to the Homestead.  Their ice cream is amazing.  Especially the peanut butter!
I think I could use one of these signs for my yard. 
Seen any young farmers lately, readers?

Friday, September 19, 2014

Francie the Rescue Horse Update

I think I'm way overdue for an update on the horse I rescued last Thanksgiving, Francie.  She is doing very well!  If you remember, she was starved, infested with worms, and completely untamed and unhandled when I got her.  She has made wonderful progress in the time I've been working with her. 

We have had our challenges though.  Like last spring, when Francie had her first heat cycle, became aggressive, and bit me while my back was turned opening a gate.  For that, she was separated from my gelding and spent some time in isolation (and I yelled at her immediately when it happened - the bite left a bruise for 3 weeks!  Thank goodness I was wearing a thick sweatshirt, otherwise it would have been much worse).  Once I was assured that this would not happen again, I moved her back in with Phoenix. 

We also ran into trouble when Francie started bolting her food without chewing.  I suppose this was because of her starvation days.  Twice she choked.  When a horse chokes, it can still breath, but it cannot swallow.  They stand awkwardly, cough, and buckets of slime (saliva) run out of their mouth.  It can be rather scary.  Luckily, I had seen it before, and I knew it wasn't generally fatal.  One of the times I did have to sedate her to get her throat to relax enough for the clump of food to pass.  Since then, I've put some large rocks into her food dish.  Now she has to nuzzle around the rocks to eat, and it takes her 20 minutes to eat instead of 5.  So far, this has been effective.

Francie and I have been riding a couple of days a week.  She has made great strides over the past month or so.  She is very spooky, but we are working on that (more about that in a later post).  I am able to ride her without assistance now, and we are walking and trotting.  I feel like we will canter in the next month or so.  I'm focusing on trying to get her to relax and bend and move away from leg pressure.  This will give her more 'power steering'.  It's slow going, but she is trying, and every ride to me is amazing, simply because I know how far she has come.  I'm so proud of her efforts!
I do wish I had more time to work with her, but the time I can put in has to be enough for now.  I'm looking forward to seeing what the next few months bring.  It's so nice to be riding again. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Mega Moist Chocolate Pound Cake with #Idelight

Even if the leaves aren't quite changing color yet, September means Fall to me, and Fall always inspires me back to baking. And so, the other day I was craving something chocolate and moist and delicious. It seemed like the perfect day to make a Southern style pound cake.

1 cup butter
1/2 cup shortening
2 3/4 cups sugar
5 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
3 cups flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
4 tbsp. cocoa
1 cup Sweet Cream flavored International Delight coffee creamer


Cream together butter and shortening, add sugar and mix well. Add eggs, continuing to mix. Add vanilla. Alternate adding dry ingredients with creamer until well mixed. Grease and flour bundt pan, pour batter in. Bake for 1 hour and 30 minutes at 325*. Cool for 20 minutes before inverting onto cooling rack.

This cake turned out so moist and delicious - the International Delight creamer really gives it a little something extra, taking it to the next level of pound cake. In fact, next month, when the boys' school has their Fall Festival and asks for cake walk donations - I know just what to make!

Stay tuned for a pumpkin recipe for next month! International Delight's pumpkin spice creamer (Pumpkin Delight) is hitting the grocery shelves, and I can't wait to test it out in my kitchen. For more excellent Fall baking ideas, check out the International Delight community.  Happy baking! 

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of International Delight. The opinions and text are all mine.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Life with School Aged Kids

So the boys have been in school now for over a month.  Life is busy.  I've been doing my mental health support job - meeting with the same client I've been working with for the past 18+ months three times a week.  In addition, I've been teaching psychology classes at a local college.  I adore teaching.

Both of the jobs are part-time.  I do not have as much free time as I thought I would (indeed, I've barely been reading at all, and am just meeting the bare minimum with my running), but it's good to be productive. 

Picture taken at the NC Zoo last month.

I am home for the boys when they get off the bus at the end of the day.  I am not working all those nights like I was during the summer, for which I am extremely thankful.  The hardest part comes when the boys are sick - then things can get a little hairy.  And there will be times that I will still need to work nights, but at least I'm getting a break from that for the time being.

Back in 2002 when my employer started a program where they would match the finances put into a masters degree, I was the first person at my job to jump on board.  It was hard working a full time job and doing my masters at the same time.  It took me 2 1/2 years, and my last semester I made a big push to finish it - working full time and being a full time student. 

Today, I'm thankful I made that choice.  It opened the door for the types of jobs I am doing now.  I never would've guessed at the time that the choice would be so important to me years later.  A good reminder that when an opportunity arises, sometimes the best thing is to jump in.

Readers, what choice did you make many years ago that you are thankful for today?

Friday, September 12, 2014

Did a Bear Attack My Horse?

Last week I had just finished my run, and was looking forward to taking Francie for a ride.  As I was jogging up the driveway to the house to change into my riding clothes, I happened to glance over at Phoenix in the pasture.  I was shocked to see the inner part of both back legs and his tail completely saturated in glistening blood.  Every inch of fur was coated.  I ran and got a halter and led him down to the cross ties, where we have a water hook up.  I immediately thought he'd been attacked by coyotes or wild dogs, or maybe even a bear (the neighbors have reported several black bear sightings this summer). 

I started hosing him off, and couldn't find any injury.  The bleeding seemed to have slowed, but where had it come from?  Thankfully, it certainly wasn't a bear, or even wild dogs.  I finally realized there was only one tiny little spot - tucked way up under his back legs.  How on earth did he get injured there?

The vet made it out a few hours later, and the bleeding had slowed significantly by then.  Phoenix was awesome - he was so gentle that he didn't have to be sedated.  The vet was able to numb the area and scrub it, then he put in several staples.  It turned out that the injury, small as it was, had nicked an artery - hence all the crazy bleeding.  The vet said in all his years, he had never seen an injury up in that area.  We wondered if he had backed into a stake-sharp stick in the pasture somewhere?  There doesn't seem to be any other suitable explanation.

Phoenix was current on his tetanus, so all he needed was a long acting antibiotic shot and he was good to go.  In a couple of weeks, I'll remove his staples, if they haven't fallen out.  I was relieved it wasn't more serious.

Photo taken at the NC Zoo last month.
Speaking of horses, I highly recommend the documentary Wild Horses, Wild Ride.  It is about 100 people who take 100 wild mustangs and have 100 days to train them.  Then they all go compete in Fort Worth.  Afterwards, there is a public auction, and the mustangs all get adopted into new homes.  It was an amazing film - I couldn't believe the things some of the people could do with those horses in just 100 days!  I checked it out of the library system, but I know many of you have Netflicks, and they probably have it as well.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Mud Pies

Mud pies for sale!

Picture taken at the NC Zoo last month.  The mud pie creation area was most impressive.
Last week Pierce came inside and said, "Mom!  There's a snake on the front step.  I think it is a copperhead.  It is brown and has spots on it"
I told him to come inside.
I went out to investigate.
Know what I found?
A four inch slug on the step.
And yes, it did have spots.

Monday, September 8, 2014

A Day at the Beach

When we took our little extended weekend trip south, we decided to do a day trip to Myrtle Beach, as it was less than an hour from where we were staying.  Myrtle Beach isn't my favorite beach (being a little too touristy for my preferences) but it had been two years and we all needed an ocean fix.
 These boys all love the beach just as much as their mom.

Indeed, two years is too long to go without a trip to the beach.

Unfortunately, it was jellyfish season, and 3 out of the 5 of us were stung.

The good news is that these jellyfish were not really bad ones.

Still, it kept me from venturing far into the water.  I had a toxic reaction to a jellyfish sting some years ago, which landed me in the hospital overnight with heart damage.
I try to play it extra safe now.

The lifeguards had a spray for the jellyfish stings, which helped get the sting out.

And then, it was right back into the water.

Because a little jellyfish can't stop the pure joy of sand and sea.
Readers, are you a fellow beach lover?

Friday, September 5, 2014

Gymboree's Nanotex School Clothes

The boys have been in school for a few weeks already, and recently Nano-tex sent us a sampling of Gymboree  clothes to put to the test.  These clothes are play proof, and stain and wrinkle resistant.  When I removed them from the box, I could immediately tell from the softness and feel of the pants that they were high quality.

In addition, they had the most important feature for my three skinny boys - internal waist adjusters.  If pants or shorts don't have these, my boys cannot wear them.  They are just very slender.

The boys attend public school, so they don't have uniforms, but they were so excited to get dressed up "like Dad" to go to school.  I told them not to worry about getting their new clothes dirty - that we were testing them out.

They looked really spiffy in their outfits.  They loved having belts to wear with their pants.  See Cort giving the thumbs up?

Sadly, Pierce got a little dirty climbing on the fence.  I told him not to worry about it.  We'd let that stain sit all day long and see what happened.

He also got some on his shirt.  I was a little worried about these white shirts.  My boys can really do a number throughout the day on a white shirt.  To be truthful - I just don't buy white shirts because of that!
By the end of the day, Cort's shirt was in the worst shape.  He'd gotten tomatoes or something red all over it.  And Pierce was playing with the chalkboard and had yellow chalk all over his.  I did notice, though, that after wearing the outfits all day, they were not wrinkled at all.  I stuck them in the wash and held my breath.

Do you know what?  Every single stain came out.  Even the ones that had been on the fabric all day long.  They looked brand new.  Just the sort of clothes you can pass down to younger kids (even with boys who are tough on clothes, like my three). I think they will hold up well over time. 

Call me impressed!  If you're looking for a play friendly nice outfit for your children, check out the Nano-Tex line from Gymboree. 

Disclaimer:  I was sent three outfits to try for review purposes.  The opinions above are my own.  I was not compensated in any other way for this post. 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

My Cat Killed a Bat

Recently I went out on the back porch to discover our cat, Willie, sitting proudly from his night's kill.  A bat.  A bat?  Yes, a bat.  What cat kills a bat?  He looked a me slowly, and blinked as if to say, "Yes, I brought you A CREATURE!  Check it out!  Only I'm not going to eat it.  Because I don't know what the heck it is!"

Willie is one crazy hunter.  He's such a tiny cat, yet he is speedy.  He can climb a tree in seconds.  His eyes are always alert and observant.  He keeps his claws knife sharp.  I haven't had a single mouse in the minivan since I got Willie.  I wish he didn't kill birds.  Or rabbits or lizards.  But I sure don't mind all those mice and moles and rats he brings in from the fields.

Lemurs?  Yeah, they're super cute.  But I bet they can't kill bats!
Picture taken at the NC Zoo, a pit stop on our drive back from a weekend of camping. 
Readers, have your cats or dogs brought home anything strange lately?

Monday, September 1, 2014


A couple of months ago Cort brought home a My Little Pony dvd from the library.  It was a remake of the original version from the 80s with "Friendship is Magic" on the cover.  I didn't pay much attention when the boys were watching it.  But soon their conversations began to have the names "Twilight Sparkles" and "Princess Celestia" and "Pinkie Pie" in them.  Soon, everytime we went to the library, the boys wanted to check out My Little Pony dvds.

The librarian told me there was a documentary about adult fans who love to watch My Little Pony.  She said they call themselves Bronies.  So of course, I had to request it from the library system to see for myself.  Meanwhile, I found a bunch of My Little Ponies on clearance at Walgreen's for 75 cents a piece, and used them as a bribe to get Reid to take his antibiotics when he had his ear infection, so we began to amass a collection. 

Soon, the documentary arrived, and Paul and I watched it.  The main question posed in the film is why does a show geared towards little girls appeal to adult males, and why does society have an issue with that?  The people who loved My Little Ponies, loved them because of the messages - the ponies are searching for the elements of harmony and the emphasis throughout the show is on friendship.  Plus, some of the episodes are downright funny!

One of the families they tailed in the documentary was a teenager who was scared to tell his conservative father that he loved the show.  When he finally did, the dad was less than thrilled, and didn't want his son to go to Bronycon (the conference for adult fans of My Little Pony).  My reaction to this was pretty much - hey, he seems like a good kid, and at least he's watching a wholesome show and not playing violent video games all day or out on the streets getting into trouble.  In the end, the kid did get to go to Bronycon, and his dad met other (more supportive) fathers of teen fans there, and sort of said he might watch the show once when he got home to see what it was all about. 

Who knew My Little Pony had such a following?  As for the boys - when they turned 5, they requested a My Little Pony cake.  I was tired, from working the two jobs all week.  I almost went store bought this year.  But finally, I grunted it out and did my best.

In the end, I used this Pinterest sugar cookie recipe, because I have made it before and it is HUGE (sheet cake sized) and quite yummy.

I dyed the sugar cookie pink.  And then mixed up an extra batch of buttercream to do all the rainbow and edges.
It wasn't as hard as I thought it would be.  A few figurines on top, and we were ready to roll.  Considering it only lasted a couple of days, I'd say it was a hit!  As for my boys, I suspect this is just another phase, but I'm happy they've found a show with kind messages and lots of humor to enjoy.

What do you think, readers?  Can you see the appeal of My Little Ponies