Blue Ivy: horses, not Hip hop

This is Blue:


This is Ivy:


This is Blue Ivy:

Well, it is, and it isn’t.  I’ll explain.

At the beginning of the summer, when Mark and I were still in the throes of our horse search, we found Blue (the horse) and his family. In my last post, I described seeing a couple horses who weren’t right for us, then finding, in Blue, the one that was.  He’s a draft cross– a big horse, but light in the hand.  He didn’t feel discombobulated and luggish the way so many heavy horses do.  He was bright, maneuverable, and happy to jump whatever I pointed him at.  He stood, contentedly tied to the back of his owners’ trailer, while we worked with him and dogs skittered around his feet.  He loved the peppermints I offered. After we drove away following our initial ride, it took all of five minutes to admit that he was the one I wanted.

A few days after our visit, once we’d arranged to buy him, his owner took him to an equine clinic in Omaha for a thorough prepurchase examination. The objective of a prepurchase vetting is to evaluate a horse’s physical capacity to perform the job his future owner intends for him.  In our case, we were looking for the vet to tell us whether she thought Blue would be physically able to jump around lower level eventing courses and the mostly 2’6″-2’9″ fences in our hunt country.  The vet there checked his vitals, sensory responses, and overall health before moving on to a soundness exam.  Blue trotted away from the vet happily enough, but, when he turned back, he was noticeably lame on one front leg.

Because he had trotted out fine, we surmised that he had probably stepped on a piece of gravel that stung, leading to the lameness observed when he returned down the lane. X-rays of that leg showed no abnormalities, but he was barefoot and his sole was low and thin.  Everyone’s had the experience of playing barefoot in the summer and accidentally stepping on a rock, right?  No bueno.

In talking with his owners, we decided to give it another shot.  Owner graciously offered to have him trimmed and shod in front, affording him some protection from the gravel.  We waited a week and brought him back, at which point he showed no sign of lameness.  We were thrilled.  We had the vet update his vaccinations and float his teeth while he was at the clinic, and made arrangements for his owner to drive him out to us in Chicago a week later.

The day before he was to arrive, his owner sent a text.  Blue wasn’t eating his grain.  She suspected that he might be harboring an infection in his mouth (the vet had extracted a wolf tooth the previous week).  She let me know that she’d be taking him to the vet in the morning instead of bringing him to us; I was in complete agreement the this was the right thing to do.

The next morning, I received another text– the one I’d been hoping wouldn’t come.  When his owner first reported that Blue had been refusing his grain, I had actually hoped for that infected tooth.  When a horse person hears that a horse is off his feed, though, that’s not where the mind most often goes.  The horseman’s mind goes to colic.

Colic is a catchall term for digestive upset in horses.  It can be mild or severe.  Sometimes, colic can resolve with administration of medication, but sometimes it can result in surgery or euthanasia.  Most people know how painful gas can be– that awful, doubling-over sort of pain.  Horses commonly get this type of colic, but they can also have colic caused by an impaction– a blockage of the intestinal tract.  These blockages can be caused by ingested sand building up in the digestive system, dehydration, rocks, fatty tumors– you name it.  An impaction is a serious problem in that it prevents the horse from pooping and can cause the tissues of the intestinal tract to become compromised.  Sometimes, the impaction can be moved along with administration of mineral oil.  Unfortunately, the longer an impaction remains unresolved, the more dire the situation becomes.

On the day he was to arrive at home with us–the day we were to have bought him-Blue was diagnosed with an impaction colic severe enough to require surgery. It was a completely unexpected event one week following a veterinary exam that he essentially “passed” with flying colors.  His owners were confronted with the difficult decision of how much money (how many thousands of dollars) to invest in treating this horse that they loved when the outcome of treatment was very, very unclear.  This was quite a reversal, I’m sure, given that someone had been about to give them thousands of dollars for Blue.  Instead of selling him, they were now faced with paying thousands to save him.

Ultimately, they proceeded with surgery.  He is still in the early days of his recovery. Having spent several days at an equine hospital, I think he’s now back on his owners’ farm.  Though I haven’t been in communication with his sellers since the day following his surgery, it’s safe to say that every day that passes with him in good health moves him closer to the possibility of a full recovery.  He’s a wonderful horse, and we’re certainly rooting for him.

In the days following Blue’s surgery, Mark and I spent a lot of time shaking our heads at the unlikeliness of it all.  Young horse, no colic history, the day he was to arrive– it all seemed impossible.  Eventually, when the shock wore off, I began to revisit some of the other horses I’d considered in the search that eventually brought me to Blue.  I’d found an ad for a mare in Indiana who looked interesting.  We went to try her last weekend with both children in tow.  Similar in age to Blue, she is entirely different in type.  A registered Quarter Horse who looks more like a thoroughbred, she’s the same height as Blue but a much lighter model.  Interestingly, though, I felt they rode much the same– light, thoughtful, and responsive.  While she’s been working on dressage most recently, she was happy to jump the little fence we set for her from both the trot and canter without fuss.  My children fed her carrots, and she stood patient and still as they  moved about her in the barn.  She sold herself, this chestnut mare.

Ivy Sunset WEC

Ivy was was vetted last week at Purdue University’s equine clinic and arrived at our farm on Sunday.  I took the picture above last night as the sun was setting over our 45-minute grazing session.

Blue and Ivy. Hopefully, the future will bring good things for both of them.


Finding Blue

On June 5, we tried a horse. We tried him in the hope that he would be the right horse to bring back home to the suburbs of Chicago, the newest member of our family.

We tried a horse that day after having tried two others, neither of which were right for Mark and me. The first, a nicely started thoroughbred who’d had a long career on the track, was too green for us to enjoy in the near term. As two adult amateurs with busy lives, enjoyment of the sport is pretty essential when it comes to justifying the expense and commitment of horse ownership. I understand that all riding is training, and I’m a competent enough rider, but a trainer of horses I am not.

I’m a mid-thirties mom with two little kids, two dogs (one a perpetual puppy), and a full time job. My husband also has a fulltime job (and the kids, and the puppy). We were looking for a horse that could, right away, provide a peaceful respite from the rush and noise of daily life. We were looking for a horse who could be a buddy to both of us– one that, in exchange for the best of care and all the affection he could hope for, would forgive our amateur mistakes, carrying us safely through lessons, the forest preserve, and with time, into the hunt field. It was clear that while the first horse we tried would make someone a good partner–maybe even a great partner one day–he wasn’t the partner for us.

The second horse we tried was handsome. A big quarter horse built atypically uphill, he looked the part of field hunter-meets-low level eventer-meets-trail partner. However, his sourness was his undoing. Over time, he had become unwilling to move forward under saddle for his owner, stalling out unexpectedly at all gaits. I’d driven a few hours to try him knowing that he “took a lot of leg,” but a lot of leg I have, and it wasn’t the answer to his problem. Whether he needed an attitude adjustment, a hole in his training filled, or was simply sore, Mr. Handsome wasn’t the horse for us. I drove home, and we moved on.

Photo of Bennet, Nebraska farmland via

Then, on June 5, we tried a horse. We found him, by way of Facebook, on a small family farm outside Lincoln, Nebraska— nearly eight hours from home. We found him happily tied to the back of his owners’ trailer, parked in the family driveway, with a couple of dogs busily running around him. We found him sweet and easy to work around.

I rode him in his owners’ back yard. We jumped a crossrail, a vertical, and respectable oxer off a three or four stride approach beside a swing set, a lawnmower, and into a grove of trees. Literally, I more or less rode him into a tree upon landing from one fence. We found him totally unruffled by my failure to adequately sit up and turn. We found him light in the bridle, happily seeking the fences, and equally pleasant when Mark was on his back. When our trial was over, we found that he liked peppermints. (I fortuitously happened to have a full bag in my glove compartment.)

On June 5, we tried a horse. By the next morning, I’d made an offer to buy him.

His name is Blue.

Fortune On-Point

The fortunes inside take-out Chinese food’s fortune cookies seem to get worse with every passing year.  In fact, most of them aren’t even fortunes anymore.  Usually, they’re statements about the eater’s character more than they are predictions for the future (Recently, I bit into “You are friendly and liked by most who know you.”  It seemed a bit generous, even to me.)

Every once in a while, though, the right eater gets the right fortune.  Evidence?  See below, discovered by my cookie-munching toddler two days ago:


Keurig Cooties?

This morning, a producer from Chicago’s CBS affiliate came to our kitchen for help with a piece on Keurig (and other one-cup) coffee makers.  With the help of Loyola University Medical Center, she’s hoping to find out what sort of unwelcome flora might be growing in these handy little brewers.  I’ve owned my Keurig since 2006 or 2007 (it was a gift from my parents), and, in that time, I’ve probably cleaned (I think the technical term is “descaled”) it…five times?  We use it daily, both to brew coffee and to warm Zoe’s bottles. (We did the same with Henry; it’s an excellent bottle warmer.)  For all my fastidiousness, I’m forever refilling the water reservoir without so much as a second thought given to scrubbing it out.  It’s only water, right?

Carol (the producer), took a sample of the water in the reservoir and swabbed the inside of the pod compartment and the outside of the drip mechanism.  In a couple of weeks, we’ll know whether ours is a clean machine or…not so much.  Stay tuned, faithful readers!  I’ll link the segment when it airs.  In the meantime, maybe clean your coffee maker?

Keurig testing.
Keurig cooties? We’ll see.

Zoe Elizabeth, 4+ months

While talking with my mom on the phone the other day, I told her I’d given up on Zoe’s monthly photos.  Even since I’d made a mess of the chalkboard I used for her 1-month photos, I’d kind of allowed myself to fall off the bandwagon.  My mother informed me, from a second child’s perspective, that this was most definitely not acceptable parent behavior.  I pointed out that I still take photos of her constantly, but this, apparently, is not enough.

“Someday,” I was warned, “she’s going to wonder why you took special photos of Henry every month but not of her.”

At the risk of giving my second child an inferiority complex, here’s Zoe’s 4-month update.  She weighs about 14 pounds.  She smiles, laughs, sits (with a little bit of help), and is right on the brink of rolling over. (She may actually have done it once already and righted herself before I saw, but I prefer to think not.)  She naps like a champion during the day, and at night she’s about half-and-half sleeping through or waking up once in the early morning.  Like her brother was, she is a happy, wonderful baby.

Here she is in all her 4-month glory, complete with tutu and headband (because I know you love a good tutu and headband, Mom)!

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On 36

With Zoe Yesterday, I turned 36. Closer now to 40 than 30, I once again must square my notions about what an age means with how I actually feel, having arrived there.

When I was in elementary school, the fifth graders were awe-inspiring. They were such big kids, they were all so smart, and the girls were beautiful. I mean, they had all their front teeth; they were practically women. Once I became a fifth grader, though, I didn’t feel like the person I’d seen when I gazed up at her from the lower grades. I was uncoordinated, I hated my hair, I never felt like my clothes looked like everyone else’s, and my teeth, while present, were far from perfect. As a sixth grader, eighth graders became my new fifth graders. As a freshman, it was the seniors I idolized. Each time, when I finally ascended to the peak I’d admired, I found that it wasn’t what I thought it would be; I wasn’t what I thought I’d be. Either I hadn’t seen those who went before me clearly, or I simply didn’t measure up. As a young person, I wasn’t sure which was true.

Once I made my way through my twenties (not having had my life “all figured out” by 25 was another buzz kill), the disconnect between my preconceived notions of age and my real-life experiences continued, but it began to turn on its head. I suppose, in my mind, I’d always categorized age into two columns: <30=young and active, achieving >30=old and stagnant, arrived. Each time I hit one of those sub-30 milestones and didn’t feel completely thrilled with who and where I was, I saw myself as underachieving. I wasn’t everything that I could or should be, or I wasn’t getting there in time. (In time for what, I’m not really sure.)

Since turning 30, I’m still at odds with the expectations I’d had for each age-related milestone. Now, though, this no longer disappoints me. You see, I thought that yesterday, when I turned 36, I’d feel old. Somehow, I’d gotten to thinking that one’s twenties were the decade for living— the one we’d all been allotted to make money, travel, achieve, and live fully before 30 arrived—that watershed age at which we’d be shackled to home, children, and the small circle and quiet routines associated with them. Once I hit thirty, I reasoned, I’d better have lots of good living to look back on, because things would be pretty boring from that point on.  It’s not that way, though.

Here I am, really looking at 40 for the first time without having to squint, and to my great surprise—I like what I see. When I look back on my twenties, the parts I remember most fondly are those parts that helped my thirties become what they are: finding my true vocation in teaching, meeting the man who would become my husband and the father of my children, and every little snapshot in time that makes up those particular albums. I don’t long for any of the other stuff or mourn its status as past—even the good bits. Mostly, as I near 40, I’ve realized that the best part of life is—or should be—the living one is doing right now.

If a person looks around her world and sees only what is wrong with it, it’s not a problem of age, it’s a problem of perception. Whether using the long or short lens, if looking around at the world yields only pictures of what’s wrong (the jerk politician ruining our state, the unfulfilling job, the crappy service at restaurants, the wood trim you hate but can’t afford to paint, the toddler who just can’t seem to get on the potty training bandwagon, the bum shoulder that doesn’t allow you to swim), then life has truly become old. It’s easy for a person to settle into a life with which she’s constantly dissatisfied. Nothing is right, everyone disappoints, everything is going to hell, and everyone needs to know about it. That just not the view I choose to take. If I were to take that view, then by 40 I’d feel every bit as old and curmudgeonly as I always thought I would in my twenties.

Roses, Diet Coke, and Bundt Cakes. At 36, the stuff of my life is more than some, less than others, but the substance of it? The meat? That I’ve got in spades. I have a husband who knows that little things make a birthday great. I have a son who asks me to lie with him in bed after I read him bedtime stories and scolds me when I doze because he wants to talk. I have three parents—three—who all took time out to call me on my birthday, telling me they love me and that they’re proud of me. I have a baby girl for whom I’m the whole world and whose smile makes sure I know it.

Are there some things I wish were different in my world? Sure, but most are either very small or very far from me and mine. I’ve decided that unless I’m willing to put some sweat equity into changing the few things with which I’m unhappy—to do something more than idly criticize or pass along an ill-conceived, cynical tweet—it’s really best to just to refocus the lens on what’s right rather than what’s wrong. Add a filter. Screen out anything that obscures my view of the good stuff.

I understand that there are new and different problems that mount with each consecutive year. I don’t have the burden of declining health and an aging body that I likely will someday, but I really do believe that no matter what or how many the successes and disappointments in one’s life, how satisfied a person is with the life she’s living is less about what is present or missing and more about that on which she chooses to dwell.

I choose to dwell on the good, and there is a great amount of good on which to dwell. IMG_3182

A regular girl, her husband, a big boy, a baby girl, two black dogs, and a red horse.