Thursday, January 22, 2015

Pony verses Horse: What's better for my child?


Finding a hobby that the entire family enjoys can be difficult.

And no, staring at the television does not count.

Brock would love it if the entire family spent our free time at SASS (Single Action Shooting Society) events. I vetoed that immediately. I don't think spending my Saturdays hanging out with old, handle-bar mustached men dressed in old west garb, shooting guns around my kids sounds like a dreamy day. CALL ME CRAZY. (Sorry to all my SASS readers, I'm sure you're not actually as old as you appear.)

Thing 1 would love it if the entire family traveled by airplane to all of the amusement parks in the U.S. and bought every toy ever made! Sorry buddy. No.

Thing 2 would love our hobby to be playdates, playdates and more playdates with his buddies. So sweet, that one. All I can say is that there is a reason I only had two children and never became a teacher- it's because two children is my maximum for a drug-free existence.

And since no one shares my desire to spend all of their free time sitting quietly, sipping antioxidants and reading, I picked horses.

So we have decided that our family "hobby" is horses!



In all seriousness, Brock and I initially bonded over our mutual love of horses. He owned two spoiled, sour things (one couldn't be bridled and the other couldn't be ridden- SUPER NEAT) and I had a perfect, 3 year old named Gus. Did I mention he was perfect? And handsome.

Gus-being handsome- and me in South Dakota.


Now that the kids are out of diapers and into learning and doing stuff without the need for 435 bulky baby accouterments, we have definitely picked back up on the horses.

Last summer, after riding three times every week, both boys progressed considerably with their horsemanship. We ended the summer by taking a family horse camping vacation in South Dakota. While we all had a really good time, I couldn't help but think that it would have been better (as in, we could have kept up with the group instead of falling behind and keeping pace with snails) if the boys would have been riding full sized horses instead of short-legged ponies. With the next summer coming up, Brock and I need to make some big decisions about what our family hobby looks like. By that, I mean, do we buy the boys horses or keep them on ponies?

What is a better fit for my children?
What is the best fit for our family?




Any horse parent has been confronted with this question. Horses? Or ponies?
When in doubt, make a list. Here are my lists of general* pros and cons for ponies verses horses.

* Of course every animal is unique and different, but I am generalizing for the sake of ease. Plus, stereotyping is fun and a real time-saver! 

PONY PROS:



  1. Considerably cheaper to feed. Horses need to consume 2-5% of their body weight in forage. Our 16hh horses weigh approximately 1,200 pounds, requiring a minimum of 24 pounds of  hay per day, per horse. My horses are not easy keepers and require more than that to look healthy. In essence, we feed 1.5 bales of hay total per day to the two horses (the currents bales we buy weigh approximately 55 pounds and cost $8.50 PER BALE= ~$383/month in hay alone for two horses). This does not include grain, supplements, medicine, veterinary or farrier costs. Ponies weigh half of that, and the feed is substantially less because they are the ultimate "easy keepers"- in fact, we have to be careful not to overfeed our ponies because they both have a history of founder. 
  2. Less expensive to keep in general (vet and farrier expenses- Brock does all their hoof work).
  3. Less manure to clean= less trips I take to the chiropractor!
  4. Lower height puts children closer to the ground when, not if, the child falls.
  5. Ridiculously adorable, can be sweet (DUKE) and easy to groom.
  6. Builds child's confidence with grooming, saddling and mounting. Thing 1 can catch, groom and saddle his pony all by himself.
  7. Fluffy. So very fluffy!
  8. Those tiny ears. Super cute! OMG! THEY'RE SO ITTY BITTY!
  9. Live long time. Very long time. We had two ponies in their 40's. Duke is 28. 
Duke after he rubbed his face into the snow.


PONY CONS:


  1. Slower walk- difficult to keep them paced with horses.
  2. Bumpier trot (Thing 2 always complains of tummy aches when he rides).
  3. Low height puts children at higher risk of being kicked by other horses.
  4. Burro-like stubbornness.
  5. Hard to lead, Hard to rein.
  6. Bad pony-tude (CLYDE).
  7. Can be frustrating for kids.


HORSE PROS:


  1. Often well-mannered.
  2. Easy to rein.
  3. Walks at a pace of other horses.
  4. High off ground, better for trail riding through creeks and over rough terrain.
  5. Smoother gaits.
  6. Safer around other horses.
  7. Can loan out to my adult friends.
  8. Can personally ride and correct attitude, if needed.


HORSE CONS:
  1. Eats more.
  2. Poops more.
  3. Costs more in every way.
  4. Higher off ground, making inevitable falls more dangerous.
  5. Not as adorable as a pony.
  6. Bigger, which can be more dangerous for little people.
  7. Bombproof, proven trustworthy kid horses are often elderly, requiring expensive specialty care and feed.


I think the answer is clear: I still have no freaking idea.

I like to include the kids on our big discussions and decisions, so I asked Thing 2 for his opinion. He said he wants to ride Duke around the backyard and a big horse on the trail. So it seems the solution is clear: HAVE ALL OF THE THINGS!

It's the same answer to all of my problems in life. MORE MONEY. Then we can keep ponies for fun in the backyard and for petting and adoring purposes, and get horses for trail riding. Bam! Thing 2 is so smart. I'm totally letting him do my taxes this year.

What would you do?

Those of you who say "Get a different hobby" are disqualified. Horses are in our blood- there's no changing that fact. It's like me insisting that I'm not a mouthy smartass.

For those of you in the same boat, good luck with your decision!

Peace, Love and Money Trees,
Johi










Saturday, January 3, 2015

New post, old sarcasm

I always love a fresh start. I'm the dork who gets excited about a new notebook and a fresh pack of pens (Precise rolling ball fine point, to be exact). I love the challenge of a blank canvas or an empty room. The opportunities are unlimited.

It's a New Year, which is a great time for new beginnings. I'm restarting today because, three days into this New Year, I've already destroyed 80% of my original goals and resolutions.  Plus I've had my fragile little feelings hurt a few too many times already. So I'm officially declaring today a do-over!



That's the beauty of new days- every morning is a clean slate, a blank canvas, an unused notebook. Too bad I'm not a morning person.

When I reflect on my recent time spent with my children, husband, and four pets in the close, very close, way too close confines of our tiny house, I no longer feel guilt for having peppermint crunch Junior Mints and red wine for lunch today.

I meant to say that I have cherished every single moment of 2015's forced togetherness, such as... 

  • Listening to my children's toy-crazed, pent-up manic play, which led to the inevitable shrieks of pain from the following fall, crash, tumble and head bump. Delightful! 
  • The constant re-positioning and throwing away of my thrashed Christmas decorations after the kitten decided to hone his attack skills. Memorable!
  • The never-ending employment of the broom, paper towels and Clorox clean-up wipes. Energizing! 
  • The ear-drum shattering barking of my dogs and that special moment yesterday when Black Dog ran into the street to yap at the police officer. Filled with pride!
  • Forcing the children into 400 layers of winter gear and out of the house for outdoor time which affords me to opportunity to listen to incessant whining about being tired and cold. Fantastical!

Yeah. Those moments are the ones that really keep me going when times get rough.

The grand finale 'treasured moment' was last night after I had spent over an hour cooking a delicious dinner that both kids refused to eat because they were too busy informing me that I was "mean". That precious moment allowed me the opportunity to walk silently away from the table with tears in my eyes, leaving behind the dirty dishes and the chaos of bedtime. I simply grabbed my book, closed the door of my bedroom and proceeded to read- ALONE- something I truly do enjoy.

So far the only real thing I've accomplished this year is cleaning my house- a daunting task not to be ignored. Of course I have repeated this task every day, as the people and animals that share my space do not share my desire for cleanliness.

Fuck it. January is overrated. Did I mention how cold it has been here? Let's just blanket statement it with "stupid cold". At least it snowed and snow is pretty. Who wants to build a snowman?

Today, watching the white glitter swirl outside my window, I am truly enjoying my home. Mostly because no one else is here. You see, today, for the second time in 15 days since Christmas Break, I am momentarily alone. Oh how I need this quiet serenity. In this moment, I vow to shrug off the bitterness of repeating myself nonstop to deaf ears. I vow to remove myself from the last few days of failure and frustration. This day, this hour, this moment is a gift. This brief bout of silence in my home is a freaking miracle.

*Cue Black Dog barking..

In honor of fresh starts, I have decided to make a new lists of new goals and resolutions for 2015; the first one is a bit lofty, the second is more attainable. I figure I will start working on these things once I finish this glass of wine. Or maybe tomorrow. I haven't yet decided.

Johi's Loftier Resolutions for 2015
1. I resolve to become a better writer, photographer and illustrator.
2. I resolve to be nice(r).
3. I resolve to be a better wife, friend and mother.
4, I resolve to talk and think less about people and more about ideas and aspirations.
5. I resolve to improve my horsemanship skills, my bow hunting skills and my ninja skills. (only one of these is true- you pick)
6. I resolve to accept love, reflect love and be love.

Johi's More Realistic Resolutions of 2015
7. I resolve to publish my children's book.
8. I resolve to properly savor my wine and food.
9. I resolve to sleep more.
10. I resolve to increase water and decrease sugar intake.
11. I resolve to have less facebook and more face time.
12. I resolve to reread the entire Outlander series (I'm already on book 3 of 7, so far so good).
13. I resolve to exaggerate and use sarcasm less, unless, of course, the story calls for it or something is really ridiculous.
14. I resolve to ignore the old urge to constantly criticize myself.
15. I resolve to repel the bad and attract the good- as in circumstances and people.


So there it is. Now the internet can hold me accountable.

And more barking. Crap. The husband has returned with the Things. Serenity, it was nice knowing you.

I mean, OH JOY! My family has returned! It's been so long since I've seen them! Almost an entire hour! And with that, # 13 is already shot to hell.

I just heard Thing 2 say to his father, "You're mean!"
It shouldn't make me feel better, but it does. Down with #2.

On a final and serious note, I have some wishes for you, my fabulous readers:
May 2015 fill you with more moments of true happiness and joy than you can even process. 
May you be blessed with health, wealth, peace and love. 
May you reach your goals and realize your potential is greater than you ever imagined.  
And because I'm actively practicing #'s 6, 14 and 15,  I hope it does the same for me, too. 

Peace, Love and New Notebooks,
Johi


Saturday, December 20, 2014

2014 Wagner Christmas Letter

Writing a Christmas letter has become an annual tradition. I usually send them to friends and family with a card and picture. In honor of the courageous #nomakeupselfie movement, I chose this one.




In all seriousness, hashtags make me want to stab something. This no makeup photo was simply because:
a. we were on vacation
and
b. we were on vacation
and
c. I'm not sure I care anymore.

Because I can't possibly send each one of you* hand signed and addressed Christmas cards, this wonderful photo that I'm certain you all want for your refrigerator and my annual Christmas letter, I've decided to post it here.

*Some people did make the cut; such as close friends and family members, anyone who attended my birth and anyone who sends me a Christmas card... or a wallet full of cash.

Hey, don't be sad. Maybe next year you can try a little harder.


Dearest friends and family,

As the end of the year draws near, I always find myself simultaneously scurrying around like an insane person- creating “Christmas Magic” for my precious children- and trying to steal some blessed quiet moments for reflection and gratitude. In all honestly, most days I find myself scurrying more than reflecting. Yet, as I sit here well before 5 pm, sipping a beer on a Saturday, I feel gratitude in my heart. Probably because Brock took the boys to run errands and I have an unusually quiet house. But I also have a beautiful, healthy family, the most amazing friends on the planet, and lots of critters to entertain and distract me. All in all, life is grand.



We have a first grader in da house! It’s Thing 1, fyi. He’s a busy, energetic seven year old with a passion for life. Brock and I are envious of the tirelessness of this guy. He loves new experiences, meeting new people, and always is looking for adventure. He also loves touching our stuff. I have never yelled “STOP TOUCHING MY STUFF” more than I do now. Seriously, this guy gets into EVERYTHING. He uses this stuff that does not belong to him to make incredibly elaborate booby traps and other contraptions that I, as a female, do not understand. He also loves school, plays baseball, reads brilliantly, rides horses courageously, and is (mostly) sweet to his little brother. He received a new, ornery pony named Clyde from Papa S and Grandma C for his birthday and the two have bonded. Clyde is a fancy, cresty-necked, palomino Welsh with four gaits: walk, trot, canter and buck forward. That fourth gait is a real doozie.



Thing 2 is now four and enjoys the laid-back lifestyle. He’s totally chill and likes his down-time at home- which I completely understand. He also loves preschool and his “preschool buddies”. A playdate with one of these buddies is the highlight of his week; right behind that is getting a balloon from the local grocery store or eating Popsicles. He is currently obsessed with making art, watching episodes of Paw Patrol, and taking long, luxurious baths- complete with lavender bath salts. He, like his brother, also greatly improved his horseback riding skills over the summer. He rides a black and white pony named Duke, who is about 28 years young. Thing 2 and Duke are about the cutest duo you’ve ever seen. So much precious happiness in one team. If they don’t make you smile, you should check to see if you have a soul.



Brock has been busy working his remodeling business. Among his many projects, he put in a lot of hours this year up the little town of Glen Haven, helping restore the Glen Haven General Store after the massively destructive September flood. It was an honor for him to be able to assist in the restoration of a town that we have both grown to love, as we spend many weekends in the summer there at our dear friends’ cabins. He also (almost) finished a project for his beloved wife- a quaint, screened reading room that I named “The Zen Den” after I rejected his proposed name of “The Rage Cage”. It’s very charming and a most relaxing place. The wine I drink out there has a particularly lovely flavor. He continues to be the good cop/fun parent, which obviously make him the favorite with the wee ones. He is trying to become “a reader” and has almost finished the book he started last year. He enjoyed the return of his handsome bay steed, Prince Charming, and actually got to ride him on occasion. Brock’s a good, kind man and I am lucky to have him by my side.




I have been busy playing the roles of camp counselor, riding instructor, homework facilitator, cook, maid, and drill sergeant with my boys. In my epic amounts of leisure time, I write stuff for money… or for free.  I currently freelance for two publications of APHA’s (American Paint Horse Association): Chrome and Paint Horse Journal. I also continue to share my irreverent observations (occasionally) on my blog and on a few other various places on the web. I was published last year in the humor anthology, I Just Want to Pee Alone and was a speaker in the 2014 Denver Listen to Your Mother- you can find both of those online. After considering a pseudonym for writing and/or everyday purposes, I have decided upon “Huh?”, as that is what my family members say to me most when I speak to them. While I feel most accomplished in the art of online distractions and procrastination, I have also been working on honing my photography skills, writing/illustrating a children’s book and positive self-talk (think Stuart Smalley). Yet the biggest impact on my life was when I celebrated the return of my beautiful buckskin Gus… then I proceeded to spend every dime I made writing on attempting to heal his laminitis. I mostly failed, but he’s worth it, even though he squelched my DSW habit.



After many prayers for peace and calm, we decided to get the boys a baby kitten. Because that makes sense. His name is Captain Fluffernutter and his hobbies are sleeping provocatively like a Playboy Bunny, mewing loudly at 2 am, annoying our other pets and climbing the Christmas tree. He’s also ridiculously adorable and we all love him irrationally.












We would like dedicate this line of our letter to you all; to thank all of you for being a part of our lives and for making this world a better place. We all wish you a very Merry Christmas and a prosperous and joyous New Year.

Much love from our home to yours, 
The Cornfed Girl and clan





Thursday, December 4, 2014

A Belated Advent Guide

Christmas is a time for traditions and giving. It is a time for reflection and gratitude. It is a time for moms and dads to make magic for their children! It is a time for those little numbered calendars that count down the days until Santa arrives! Er.... I mean, until Baby Jesus was born.

Yes, I realize it is December 4th and we are already four days into Advent, but maybe some of you are like me. As in, behind. For instance, I am posting about Advent on December 4th, I've yet to write a post about my new kitten... that we got in October, I just found the Mother's Day card for my mom and her birthday present is sitting on my dresser that hasn't been dusted in four weeks.

Regardless of my (dis)organizational skills, Advent is a fun way to make one of those memorable "Christmas Traditions" for your kids.



Growing up, my Great Aunt Ann always sent two advent calendars; one for me and one for my sister, Jessi. Each November, I looked forward to that manila envelope arriving in our country mailbox. The calendars were the simple, no-candy kind... just a beautiful picture full of little paper doors which opened to pretty images of the season. Those numbered doors revealed so much Christmas magic. There were stockings and ornaments, cookies and kittens, gifts and carolers. On the 25th, the picture was always of Baby Jesus. Every morning I looked forward to opening another tiny door to a soft, glowing picture representing the building excitement for Christmas day. Advent embodied so much about my favorite season: beauty, anticipation, thoughtfulness, surprise and reward. I counted on those calendars from my kind, Great Aunt.  I've loved those calendars. Even today, they are one of my favorite Christmas traditions from my childhood.

When I had kids, I wanted to continue the Advent Calendar tradition. I searched for similar calendars but could never find the same ones with the pretty pastel drawings and watercolor paintings. In fact, the only calendars I found had candy, thus our great Advent tradition of "chocolate for breakfast" was born. This was not what I needed for my tiny, gift-crazed Christmas elves. The candy never stayed in place when the calendar was hung. Sometimes the boys would open doors to reveal a disappointing empty plastic well. Other time they would open the door and the chocolate would catapult from the calendar. Then we would end up searching for the little pieces of chocolate and finding it in unfortunate locations, like the dog water bowl or under the stove where the moths and spiders go to die. There was no consistency with these candy calendars and the sugar and treat aspect only added to the overall manic behavior of my kids during the month of December. I longed for a simple. pretty picture of a candle or an angel behind a tiny paper door to be enough, but my kids are four and seven and I thought maybe I'd missed my window.

Enter the Seasonal section of Target and their adorable wooden Advent houses...



I spotted one last year and, like a good, thrifty farmer, I waited for it to go on sale. Unfortunately, they had all been snatched up by other Advent Traditionalists. Sometimes being a cheap bastard doesn't pay off.
 
Determined to win Christmas this year, I nabbed one as soon as I spotted it on that Christmas filled Target endcap. VICTORY WAS MINE! Then I realized I had to fill it, which was going to require some work and thought on my behalf, thus adding to the Christmas Tradition of Mom as the local Magic Maker! Cookies! Gifts! Music! Decorations! Cards! Pictures! ALL OF THE THINGS!!!!!! WHY DO I DO THIS TO MYSELF?

I remembered an email from church that mentioned Advent so scrolled through the 8,000 emails in my inbox (I'm sadly not exaggerating) until I found it. After reading through it, I made my own version. I used some of their ideas and added some of my own to fit my family. I typed it out and cut the paper into strips. Then I loaded each tiny drawer with a customized strip of paper. Because I'm a slow learner, I added two caramel and milk chocolate Hershey's Kisses to each drawer. Then, as a reward for all my hard work, I ate all of the remaining chocolates.

Here's my Advent Calendar:

1st: Make a blessings jar. Place on empty jar on the table. Each evening at dinner, have every member of your family write down a blessing and place it in the jar.
2nd: Read your favorite Christmas book. Talk about why it is your favorite.
3rd: Make a list of the people that you want to buy or make gifts for.
4th: Do something kind for your brother. Write a letter to Santa.
5th: Sing Christmas carols!
6th: Read Luke 1.26-38. Give each of the animals a special treat and tell them that you love them.
7th: Bake Christmas goodies!
8th: Write a family prayer about hope, peace, joy and love.
9th: Pick a local organization to donate to.
10th: Discuss the true meaning of giving.
11th: Is it snowing? Play in the snow!
12th: Wrap gifts you made or bought.
13th: Read Luke 1.39-55. Draw a picture of what you read.
14th: Call Aunt Jessi and wish her a happy birthday~ Sing her a song!
15th: Do something nice for a family member or friend. Keep who did it a surprise!
16th: Say a prayer for others.
17th: Go on a Christmas Light Tour!
18th: Read your favorite Christmas story to someone lonely.
19th: Make more Christmas goodies and give them away!
20th: Read Luke 2.1-5. Help Mommy and Daddy prepare for Christmas.
21st: Have each family member share what they want to do for Christmas celebrations.
22nd: Say a prayer for all the homeless people and animals. Make a donation.
23rd: Write a letter to each of your family members to open on Christmas morning.
24th: Read Luke 2.1-20. Hold hands with someone you love.

25th: Sing Happy Birthday to Jesus! Read the blessings from the Christmas jar.

The kids are enjoying this new spin on our Advent Tradition and I feel like it is making Christmas a little more heartfelt and meaningful. The boys actually remind me about the Blessing Jar every night at dinner!

Or maybe I'm just deluding myself so I feel better about spending $25 on a charming, painted wooden house from Target.

Either way, I'm winning at Christmas, and that is obviously what this season is really about.

Peace, Love and Christmas Traditions,
Johi