There's another important aspect regarding helmets that I want to turn everyone's attention to: we need to ensure that those people who choose to wear a helmet to protect their brain, aren't mislead into purchasing something that they think provides protection when really it's just an accessory.
Christen O'Donnell was a twelve-year-old who rode, so her parents purchased what they thought was a helmet for her. It looked like a helmet and was on the shelf with helmets, therefore it must provide protection. But Christen fell off, hit her head and was killed. Devastated as any mother would be, Kemi O'Donnell researched the "helmet" and found it offered no protection at all. Kemi has spent the last fourteen years trying to get a bill passed that would prevent any parent in the future from suffering the agony of thinking that they're protecting their child only to find out they're not when their child is horrifically ripped away.
Here is an article that was recently written on the bill:
Please help us get the Christen O'Donnell Equestrian Helmet Act passed by taking the time to contact your state senator and congressman and asking them to support it. Also, please "like" the Christen O’Donnell Equestrian Helmet Safety Act Facebook page:
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Christen-ODonnell-Equestrian-Helmet-Safety-Act/156758544418267 Let's all work together to make the world a safer place and help others to avoid the same agony others went through.
There has been a visible change in Koryn's relationship with both Bimini and Fargo. As she describes it, it's like they're her partners now. The change began from the same lesson. With Bimini, to counteract his desire to run through the bit, I had her give the reins all the way away after a half halt-- abandon him so he couldn't lean on the bit. Being the great student she is, she took this to the extreme with both horses. Although of course there wasn't a great deal of movement in her hands, the reins were always taking or giving so the contact we want to make very small aids possible was lacking.
So we spent the day focusing only on her contact. It was hard for her to not give the reins all the way away. I had to stress, don't give, but soften. We practiced just doing minor changes of tempo within the gait: a little bigger trot, a little shorter-- not slower, shorter so the leg is actually more active than the hand in shortening.
The leg too, she'd gotten into the all or nothing mentality. I'm so strict on immediacy of responses normally and since Fargo wouldn't react right away, she'd get after him, but his reaction when he's unsure is to brace which prevents him from going forward. So instead of getting after him, I had her just wait it out. Soon he would go immediately, not as much as I'd normally want but he was responding immediately to her aids. Within a couple of days, he'd go more than enough to make me happy because as soon as he didn't tense up (he's not lazy, just tight), his body was easily able to lengthen the strides.
She wrote about her thoughts and realizations about it on http://korynstaehling.com/ . There's no www. in the address.
For the very first time the other day, I was further away from River than just in the next room when Jason took her back to the house from the barn after I fed her. Even though it was only two hours, by the time I got home, I was desperate to see her. Instead of not wanting to be away from her to teach though, it had the opposite effect on me: it made me appreciate our together time even more and it was such a glorious sensation to be with her again, I think the necessity to be away from her will make our bond even stronger.
This is River’s Easter picture. Her great-great grandma made this dress! She’s always dressed in boy’s clothes because one of best friends, Jennifer Baumert, saved all of her son’s clothes (I haven’t had to buy a single article of clothing because between the gifts and her hand-me-downs, we’ve had plenty! Everyone told us you can never have too many onesies, and when Jason saw how many we had, he said “oh yeah?”, but boy were they right!) So people always think she’s a boy, but in this, there’s no mistaking! My lovely little lady.
I used to be afraid that my uselessness would cause me sadness when she outgrew infancy, but on the contrary, seeing her develop provides me with great joy. I tell her that Daddy's good at being fun and funny, and Mummy's good at loving.
I also am finding my own way to be useful. Right now i can hold her and let her play or rest on me between feedings so that Jason can focus on work (between changes), and when she begins to crawl, we're going to convert my room of inspiration (aka the gym) into a baby room:put a big rug down and a low chair for me to sit in so I can help her onto my lap if she so desires and feed her.
I've begun teaching local clinics and it's quite funny; I have a whole possy. Koyn is my body to get on the horse and feel thing out for me or to show the students something so she has to go, River needs to follow my beasts so she needs to go and Jason needs to take care of River so he needs to go.
I finished my final run-through on the book and the only thing left is we're going to have a few people who know nothng about me or horses read it because for some reason the two people helping me publish think a non-horse crowd would enjoy it just as much. I can see how the beginning and the end may interest them, but the middle is so horsey. But Koryn agrees with them, so we'll see. Regardless, it's exciting to see it in print!
I REALLY want to finish the final draft of my book so I can fully give myself to moments like these, but just a quick note to tell you River and I are enjoying each other even more. She recognizes me by sight now (I've graduated to being more than a nipple) and when she sees me, she gives a big grin. And if she's just staring at me with no grin and I begin to tease her vocally (coming up with things to say is so much easier when she responds), saying things like "I know you want to grin, I can see one brewing," in a high pitched voice (amazing how much she likes the high pitched voice), she looks at me coyly and this grin slowly emerges ending in full blown arm swinging and mouth gaping. So unbelievably contentment and excitement inducing. Simply heartwarming.
PS The reason I'm taking the time to write when I so desperately want to finish my book (don't get me wrong, I can't express how much joy writing that book has given me, Little Miss just gives me more!), is because of all the feedback I've gotten over Facebook and through emails. It's so fantastic that people enjoy reading them because I sure do enjoy sharing them!
PPS Holy cow, could I have more parenthetical notes? (I could and I will!)
Even when I was bawling about Quiver, when she smiled (which she does amazingly often), I couldn't help but smile. Although of course I'm heartbroken, I think far more of our great moments and how lucky i was to have him in my life than sulking in the misery of losing him. As my step-mom said, he must have known it was ok to go when I have such a special gift to see me through. So my focus can go back to where it belongs... on her!
I still can't believe that this...
... came out of this.
The other day, Koryn was sitting with me as I held River and was staring at her lost in thought as I often do. I told Koryn there should really be another word to describe how I feel about River; it's more than love. So we spent 45 minutes trying to create another word, perhaps a combination of words that don't explain it by themselves, but added to the qualities of another word may cut it. But even all added together, words can't describe this sensation. The closest word that even comes close to describing the feeling she fills me with is rapture.
I was resigned to the fact that I'd become a zombie due to sleep deprivation because I thought that in the brief moments I did sleep, she'd wake up hungry and then it would take me as long to get back to sleep as it took her to get hungry again. But boy was I wrong. I've slept the very best and most consistently I have since my accident. She wakes up two or three times a night but I wake up, feed her and go straight back to sleep. I'm probably getting closer to six or even seven (!!!) hours of sleep a night instead of four!
And the timing couldn't be more perfect. When she was a newborn and slept most of the day, she'd sleep on my chest while I worked on my book. (which was heaven). Now she's beginning to get more alert and active so will need more interaction which I wouldn't be able to rip my focus away from giving her, and my book is in the final stages. The finished manuscript is with the proofreader now, she'll get it back to me Friday, I'll do a final read through and implement her changes, and then I'm done! Very satisfying, exciting and relieving! :)
My heart broke yesterday when the world took the best dog she's ever created back from me. His name was Qui Vicino (Italian for something or other) aka Quiver. I found him outside of Rome in March of 2001. He was in a rest stop with his mom begging for food, but his mom wouldn't let him have any. So I took him.
He's an Italian Sheepdog, which were still used as working dogs to protect sheep from wolves and were quite valuable, so in order to take him, I had to have a local vet come to our seedy hotel and forge ownership papers. He said in his thick Italian accent, "Imagine, going from herding sheep to Smith and Wolinski!", which is a top steakhouse in New York City. As if Quiver would be in a smoking jacket with a cigar each evening. I smiled and nodded.
He was the most intelligent, most soulful, most human-like dog I've ever met. He never had a single accident in the house even though I never told him that was a rule, and at first I was confused as to how he knew. As the years passed by, I realized the reason: he's polite. Initially he was terrified to enter any indoor space simply because it wasn't something he'd ever been exposed to, so I guess he just thought inside was special and didn't want to soil it. He was amazingly considerate, even let 6 pound Viva take food out of his bowl right under his chin.
Yesterday morning I was lying in bed nursing River and Jason came in on hold with the vet clinic and told me Quivvy wasn't in a good way; he was sprawled out panting on the floor and had defecated all over, he was going to take him to the emergency room. I wanted him to be able to go right away so I said it breaks my heart that I can't see him. Jason replied that he needed to get organized and pull the car around anyway, so we put River in her crib and I went downstairs to see Quivvy.
There he was, lying flat out panting in the kitchen. When I started petting him, he tried to raise his head and I could see appreciation in his eyes. I stayed with him a moment, then I realized I better get prepared for Jason to leave me right away because the quicker we got Quiv to the vet, the better chance they'd have of saving him. So I tore myself away, went to the bathroom and hobbled to my nursing chair. I so regret not being with him for his final moments. Jason said as soon as he put him in the car, he died... Jason thought he was only holding on to life to see me again. So if that's true, he held on suffering in the night, I finally come down, am with him momentarily and then abandon him?? Oh my gosh, I cannot explain the anguish this thought caused. Jason tried to comfort me by saying I did what I thought would help him the most at the time, I couldn't have known. Although this is true, it didn't take away the regret. Then my sister in law who worked at hospice told me something that did alleviate the angst of regret a bit: she said they often had to ask the person who the dying person loved the most to leave the room because only in their absence did the person feel free to die. So perhaps Quivvy got a loving goodbye from me and then could relieve himself of the agony of continuing to live.
A few things comfort me a great deal:
- he never was decrepit, forcing us to agonize if it was kinder to put him down or help him to live. The evening before his death, he got in playful puppy-mode, which happened after dinner almost every night, and was just as exuberant as ever.
- I wasn't in Florida. The past couple years I've known that he's very old for a big dog and have been terrified that he'd go when I was away.
- Jason looked up what his age would be in dog years. For a dog over 90 pounds (he was 115), he would be 105!!
Writing my book has necessitated reading my old journals so I was reminded of something I wrote when Myth died:
I’m not religious but I cannot imagine a soul like Myth’s not being rewarded in a simple and perfectly joyous way. It has to be.
I think the same thing about Quivvy.
After having a good hard, soul-wrenching cry, I thought of something I said to one of my clients when her dog died. She said, "Why do we do it? We know they're going to dye first and it hurts so much." I responded that she has to think of all she gained from his life rather than what she lost from his death. Quivvy gave me a phenomenal 14 years.
I'm sad that River won't be able to remember him and one regret I do have is not getting any photos of them together. The one photo I do have to put in River's baby book is Quivvy wearing the saddle County made for her. :)
River's amazing and I feel so fortunate to have a baby with such a wonderful disposition. She just lies in her crib sometimes grinning from ear to ear, looking around and making noises. I've even seen the first sign of a sense of humor. It's slightly creepy but absolutely hilarious. When I'm breastfeeding, she suddenly gets this big grin and starts playing with my nipple, grabbing it in her gums, releasing it, doing a full-on Woody Woodpecker, shaking her head left and right with her mouth open and brushing the nipple, and every once in a while, pausing to grin before starting up again.
Not to say she doesn't have moments of crying (which fill me with agony), but amazingly few and always for a reason.
I often have trouble just holding River because she sees me as nothing but a nipple as all I ever do is feed her. Even when I just lean over her crib and stroke her, the scent of me sends her searching for an imaginary nipple. So every day I try to have a bit of non-feeding lap time. Here's a photo of her on my lap yesterday thinking, "Could she possibly be more than a nipple?"
I love that you love my sap because I love writing about it!
So I'll write about something that simply fascinates me: River's facial expressions. When I was initially going through therapy, I learned about mirror neurons. How there are neurons in the brain that cause a person to feel what they see another person's facial expression indicate that they're feeling, like sadness if you see someone cry or happiness if you see someone smile. My feelings mirror River's expressions. The clearest is when she smiles, I get a big grin on my face and if it goes on a long time, tears in my eyes. But I feel my features mimicking every one of her expressions: if she grimaces, I do. If she looks angry, I do too. If her face contorts ready to collapse into screaming and crying, I feel her agony.
Another fascinating aspect that occurred to me as I watched her expressions go from one extreme to the other, is that perhaps her features are just discovering what they can do. Like tummy time is important to promote vestibular development by making them aware of their limbs, perhaps testing out their expressions is an important learning phase too. I have no idea if being so expressive is common so I may be jumping to uneducated conclusions, but it's where my mind took me!
On that line of thinking and something I'm quite certain isn't my train of thought taking me off the track, is the way her eyes are figuring out their task. She can't focus yet-- if you get too close and she tries to focus on you, she goes cross-eyed-- but her eyes are very busy. They look beyond you and try to focus on a difference in color she sees on the wall (a painting) and then begin moving back and forth like she's scanning. Her eyes are trying to figure themselves out. It will be fascinating to watch her test out each of her limbs and digits and slowly develop mastery over them.
Another initial development that reminds me of what excitement the future holds is her first experiment with the voice. Her vocabulary still consists of grunts, groans, squawks and occasional cries, but yesterday I think I heard the first bit of baby babble. It didn't go on long and wasn't decisive or perhaps purposeful, but it was a precursor and made me appreciate all I have to look forward to instead of just focusing on the perfection of her infancy.
This is after River's first bath with her godmother/my sister. She continues to fill my days with joy and wonder. I never understood the purity of complete innocence until I stared into those eyes as they try to focus on me. They've experienced nothing, have no ulterior motive, don't try to act a certain way to get a certain response. She takes my breath away. Everyone told me to appreciate every moment because time flies by, and I thought, ya, ya, time always flies. But holy cow, I cannot believe tomorrow she will have been in my life four weeks; it feels like we just left the hospital!
I think I'm appreciating this time more than most because right now, I have a lot to contribute (milk), but soon she'll find mommy extremely boring because of my inability to pick her up or physically play with her for fear of falling over. One way I do feel I can continue to be a comforting part of her life during her toddler years, though, is through story time; I can read to her at bedtime.
I know it's also very good to talk to your infant, but I have trouble coming up with things to say. I've never been good at small talk and put an infant at the receiving end and I'm utterly hopeless. So I decided to start reading to her. But the first book I tried, I was struggling through the first page. I'm able to read silently just fine and I can talk (not super well but I don't struggle) so I foresaw no problem, but when I tried to read aloud, the added challenges of pronunciation and breathing made my reading very labored not animated at all. I can picture her saying what my friend's toddler said to her in response to her singing: "stop it, Mommy."
I was distraught about this for a bit and then I remembered that the speech therapist I worked with for over two years after my accident offered to help me at any point free of charge when I had to stop taking speech because insurance refused to pay. (Amazing!!) So I called and scheduled a couple sessions. I know the only way of course is to practice, but I'm sure she'll give me some very helpful exercises.
Normally each morning after her final feeding before beginning the day, we do skin on skin resting for a good hour or so, but the other day I needed to get up and go so we didn't do it. As soon as Jason took her out of the room, I was filled with painful yearning. I didn't even brush my teeth, I was in such a hurry to be with her. I so feel for all those mothers who are forced to drop their infants at daycare. It must be excruciating and my heart goes out to them.
I know that the sensations I describe in these updates are already very well known to all the mothers out there and getting barraged by every detail of someone's child's existence can be irksome, so if you ever don't care to keep reading my sappy updates, simply don't comment and I won't continue to write about the inane (and blissful!) details of my life!
There are things, as expected, that my disabilities prevent me from doing but my heart yearns for. And, as expected, my joy in motherhood far surpasses these minute disappointments. Also as expected, Jason helps me find a way around my disabilities and we find a way to satisfy my heart. Since we came home, I've longed to hold my bundle of perfection like this, over my shoulder, but having the limited control I have, I knew I couldn't do so safely. So Jason placed her solidly over my shoulder and I rejoiced in feeling her heart on mine.
And then there are moments like this. I'm trying to think of what to say but I can find no words... I don't think words are necessary, though... the picture expresses my feelings more clearly than any vocabulary.