River's started kissing me! Since she was about seven months old, we've done what we call a head-kiss where we lean our head toward her and say, "head-kiss?," and she bumps her forehead into ours. But yesterday she learned to do a lip-kiss. I always take her stuffed bunny and hug it to my chest and shower it with kisses, and River loves that. It always gets a big grin. So yesterday when I gave it back, she kissed it. I said, "lip kiss for mummy?" and puckered my lips. She though for a moment, then pressed her lips to mine with the full smacking sound and everything. The first two were proper, then she started coming at me with her mouth gaping. I obediently kissed her tonsils, and she gave herself a congratulatory clap of the hands. She claps after everything; after each finger we clip; after brushing her teeth; after throwing a toy for Viva; after turning around to back down stairs or get off the couch, after putting a donut shaped to on a peg. She celebrates every small accomplishment.
She's also begun to, when I'm sitting on the floor with her, come over for a simple cuddle. She's become very fond of my bare skin. When she's going to sleep, she reaches inside my shirt to gently stroke my chest, or if it's covered up, she strokes my face. When I'm lying with her, she pulls my shirt up to bare my belly, strokes it a while, maybe raspberries it, and lays her head on it with a content expression. She's particular enamored with my stomach tube scar and the weird protrusion of my pump. (She's also fascinated with the sound the pump makes when she slaps it.) She's going to love the summer when so much skin has easy access.
I'm also able to do far more with her than expected. If I prop myself in front of a counter, I can pick her up and hold her. I can't carry her, but I didn't originally have hopes that I'd even be able to hold her. Jason has to help me put her down, but I can hold my little girl close until Righty gets tired.
Righty is doing better after one year of Little Miss he did than after four and a half years of therapy. He's stronger from lifting her up and has slightly more dexterity from playing with her toys. People even tell me I'm speaking better. I guess the endless singing to her and trying to make sounds is also better than reading lists. She's not only my little ray of sunshine, she's fertilizer, giving some life to this wilted tree.
One more thing that surprised me; I thought she'd come to me for comfort and go to a Daddy for fun, but in fact it's the opposite. Even though I feed her, she knows Daddy makes the food. Daddy picks her up and carries her around. She cries when he won't or when he puts her down, but Mummy would never reject her neediness or put her off my chair when she doesn't want to go and is always ready with a toy.
One more thing, as examples of her perfectness keep coming to mind. She often takes my cane to play, and it used to be a problem because I'd be stranded. But now it's not a worry because I just say "Ta to Mummy" (a New Zealand way of saying give to me, originally meaning thank you) and she brings it back with a big grin. Even if she's left it across the room, I just have to point and say, "Ta to Mummy," and she happily retrieves it.
Have I mentioned that I feel unbelievably lucky to have the only perfect child in the world?
I feel so unbelievably grateful that the equestrian world hasn't forgotten me even though I haven't been down the centerline in five and a half years. The Chronicle of the Horse Untacked is doing an article on me in the upcoming May/June issue, and they sent out a photographer, Carien Schippers (www.imagequine.com), who took the most lovely shots. Although I take many pictures of Little Miss doing cute things, I hardly have any of the family or close-ups of her. And I thought the quality of my iPhone photos was good until I saw these. Although I'm sure much of that has to do with the skill of the photographer! Carien so kindly said she would come and photograph River again at no charge. Photographing subjects with no horses is not in her comfort zone, but she said Little Miss was an easy and enjoyable model!
I'm very curious to see this article. For how much info they gathered, it'll be about a million pages long with ten million photos! They're even printing a portion of my book!
You know, The Chronicle is where my equestrian journey began. When I was seventeen, I found an ad in a fifteen-year-old issue that Lendon Gray was looking for a working student. I new the chances were slim that she'd still be looking but I called, and the rest is history.
For anyone wondering, my sleep test was canceled because insurance won't cover it (yet!), but my doctor is giving a home-testing machine to use overnight next Thursday.
This morning I woke from a dream in which I was riding, nothing fancy, just a typical day of training. Mostly what made it real was the scent. I could smell me, that unique scent of sweat mingled with horsiness. And I found myself waking to regretting that I couldn't ride anymore; I wasn't even close to realizing my full potential. Imagining how eventually I could have become a stronghold with Steffen in international competition. The owners of my Olympic horse were in the process of buying me a new horse; I was intending to try to qualify Grandioso for WEG; I had two extremely promising youngsters provided by sponsors. How different my life could have been.
But then my thoughts shifted to River. How almost every day I get to let her sleep on me for her two naps; how I get to spend almost entire days playing with her and watching her play; how loving her nearly makes my heart burst. How different my life would have been.
My life is different, but certainly not worse.
I've received more encouragement to keep up my postings, and it makes me feel so good to hear that people are enjoying them. Thanks so much for taking the time to let me know.
Big news on the sleep front: I got a full eight hours the other night!!! I went to a sleep doctor (how incredibly stupid that I didn't even know such a thing existed), and he rattled off a zillion different drugs I could try. He was extremely thorough. And the one he chose to prescribe (trazadone) gave me eight hours on half of the potential maximum dose! And with so many other possibilities, I'm less worried about becoming immune. I feel so stupid for not thinking there was a doctor who specializes in sleep, but I suppose one would think my neurologist would recommend seeing one as it's such a problem.
The other thing he prescribed is a sleep test. I've never done one because, out of the five people I know who've done one, not one has said it helped. They all recommend doing the same things: keep all electronics fifty feet away, don't drink too much, don't watch tv before bed, etc, all of which I've done with no success. Even my doctor doesn't have much faith that it will really shine light on why I don't sleep, but he says it's worth doing for any information it will provide. And let's face it, it's pretty silly not to do one. That's Wednesday night, and I'm really looking forward to it. Just watch, I'll sleep like a baby!
River is officially a toddler. She took her first steps the day before her birthday, but now she's zooming around. It's such a fun age to watch as she figures out how her body works.
I think she mimics Viva nearly as much as me. She loves to crawl inside the kennel, with or without Viva. When Viva's not in her small, donut-shaped bed, River will circle around inside it and wedge herself in just so like Viva does. When Viva gives her toy the shake-of-death, River shakes her own head.
When Jason and I read about how dachshunds are as family dogs, it said, "not good with kids", and I initially thought that would be accurate with Viva. But she's a saint. Usually River's very gentle with her, but a couple times she's really pulled hard on her tail. Viva just yipes and gives a half-hearted growl.
The way they interact is quite cute and entertaining: River will find Viva's favorite toy--Sofie, a giraffe for babies that was originally given to River--, squeak it, and look for Viva to come. When she does, River flails it in front of Viva's face until Viva takes it. Then River takes it back (Viva knows that when River tries to take the toy, she needs to let it go) and hands it to me to throw. Then she claps as Viva goes to fetch it, Viva brings it back, and we do the whole thing over again: take the toy, flail it in Viva's face until she takes it, take it back, hand it to mummy and watch Viva run. It's an evening ritual as we have our nightly drink-and-pretzel chip-o'clock. River's an amazingly cool chick like that too. She just sits next to me in my big chair, munches on her crackers and sort of watches the Daily Show with us as she plays with her toys. I feel lucky every hour of every day that I have a child with such a stellar disposition.
I think it's time now, too, for a Koryn update. She's now attracting clients through her obvious skill in riding. A woman at our barn who I don't know put her six-year-old horse in full training with Koryn. She's super happy with how it's going, said she's not going to ride the horse at all and just wants to sponsor Koryn. She pays for Koryn to ride with me once a week. An old client of mine, who Koryn's been driving an hour to teach, just bought a new horse and put him in our barn for full training with Koryn. It's extremely satisfying because I've always been concerned that, due to the fact that I'm not out and about, she wouldn't be in a position to attract clients.
It also relieves me that she has other horses because I can't continue to support a horse for her, so I need to sell Bimini. He's a twelve-year-old and has show PSG, but we haven't shown him. I'm sending him to Jen Baumert, one of my best friends who's one of the few people I'd trust with my horse, at the beginning of April. If anyone is interested, they should contact her after she's had a while to get to know him because I'm not and never have been a seller. I've sold three horses in my life, two to the same person!
I want to send out a heart-felt thank you to all those who went through the effort to comment on Facebook or write me personal emails. I know it's a pain, and I appreciate you letting me know that you still care about my measly life. There are also several more reviews on Amazon, and I can't say thank you enough for that. They're SO helpful for people who are contemplating buying my book.
Sorry it's been so long since I've written. I said I would write as long as people were interested, and from the lack of Facebook responses, I'd assumed that time had come, but then I received a few personal emails saying they missed my entries and they so enjoyed them, please don't stop. So my joyful duty isn't over. I do very much enjoy it; I suppose it's an outlet for my joy of writing, as well as feeling that it's the least I can do for the public who's always been there for me. I also know it's a pain to write comments on Facebook because you have to go back and forth between pages as my website won't allow me to have direct messages, so I just appreciate all the comments before. My life. The main thing right now is my incessant battle with sleep. My tolerance for Xyrem hasn't been reduced during the seventeen month hiatus. (Neither has my tolerance to alcohol, which is lucky because I do love my wine!) The initial five hours of sleep I got from the maximum dose of Xyrem has remained resolutely at two and a half hours. I'm pretty comfortable getting through my next couple clinics on the Xyrem as I can take it a few times in a night, but I don't want to be dependent on drugs forever, even if we can find a stronger one than Xyrem, i.e. the date-rape drug.
I tried listening to a hypnotic sleep app, and at first it worked brilliantly. On the third night, I got a full five hours of straight sleep, and on the fourth, I listened to it six times to no avail. Apparently my body has the same rapid tolerance production to hypnotic apps as it does to drugs. I tried two other similar apps, but the people's voices weren't soothing at all, were actually slightly jarring.
Now I have a guided meditation app that I'm quite excited about. I didn't get a chance to listen to it fully last night because the night before, Jason had kindly let me Xyrem it up and he had a bad night with LM, so when last night started badly I had him go in the other room and leave her in bed with me, so sleep aids weren't happening. But I heard enough to know that I love her voice and her laid back way of speaking.
So onward and upward!
I also wanted to say a collective thank you to those who've done a review of my book on Amazon. I know it's time consuming and a bit of a pain, but I know, when I'm considering buying, it greatly helps me to read other's opinions. So thank you.
One final thing: I have some riding boots to sell if anyone who's a size 9 1/2 needs some. I believe I have a light brown pair, a dark brown pair and a black. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
River's up north birthday party was as fantastic as her Florida one. We had to cancel last-minute due to the weather, but luckily nearly all the guests could do a lunch party the following day.
We've had quite a momentous week. On February 19th, the day before Little Miss's birthday, she took a couple of unsure steps on her own, and on the 23rd, she marched (sort of drunkenly) across the kitchen.
It's been fascinating to watch how her personality is appearing: we tried for over four months to get her to take formula-- mixed it with breast milk, tried everything. Then one day, she just decided to drink it, straight up. Same thing with walking. For a few weeks when she was dependent on walking with two hands, Jason would try to trick her into walking by letting go with one hand and baiting her with the other. She'd just get mad and sit down. Then one day she was standing and holding on to my knee, not walking at all, and she decided she was ready, let go and just went for it. We used to always take the small things she found on the ground to prevent her putting them in her mouth, then she began to just hand them to us when she found things. We're so lucky to have a baby with such a good disposition who's always happy.
The other thing I'm touched by is her natural affinity for animals. If we go to dinner at friends' houses, she always asks to be by the cat or dog. She loves peering at the horses when we go to the barn. She takes Viva's toy to her, plays a bit of tug-of-war, then hands it to me to throw. She actually mimics Viva quite a bit. She crawls into the kennel, tries to wedge herself into Viva's tiny dog bed (I wish I could post a video), and when Viva gives her toys the shake of death, she shakes her head.
Recently a reporter from the Chronicle interviewed me and asked what surprised me the most about motherhood. I answered, The entertainment. Man, that girl is funny.
I just got back from a fabulous weekend in Wellington. I went primarily to visit friends, but they threw a birthday party for Little Miss! It was awesome...all my best friends, Lendon, my dad and step-mom...it was awesome. The whole visit was incredibly special. I got to spend every one of my five nights with my best friends and Florida gang. They say they barely see each other otherwise even though they're best friends without me, and I have to remind myself that it's like when Jason goes to New Zealand: his two best friends and every member of his family dedicate the entire time we're there to hanging out all together, although their lives are usually very separate and scattered. They make the effort because we're there, and it's not like that all the time. If I didn't think of it that way, it would be anguish to think I'm missing out on such fun. I also got special visits from the Hasslers, who are so near and dear to my heart. They've been such a big part of my career since the beginning, but even without that, they're just the type of people that make my heart open like double doors and envelop them. Also from Laura Tomlinson (Bechtolsheimer), who I simply have a special connection with. You know those people who you've just met but you feel you've known them your whole life? That's us. We've actually only even met a few times, but each time has been special in its normalness. I say in my book after the first time meeting her, "it may be ten years, but just like tonight, it will be easy". And it was.
River's first birthday is actually February 21st, and Jason and I are having a party with my up north friends this Saturday. My sister's flying in from Chicago, and I'm very excited. It will be another fabulous celebration of the light of my life.
After the nasty cold we all caught after diving into the germ factory of Little Miss's activities, we skipped a few weeks in order to be well for her parties, and I'm very much looking forward to getting back into it. My sleep is still an ongoing challenge, but it's slightly better and much more manageable since I've realized what's wrong with me and stopped wondering why I've suddenly become an atrocious person. It feels good to have life return to the joyous occasion it's always been for me.
This photo is from River's swim class. Two weeks ago, we had a swim class--which she was the star of!--, a tumblin' tikes class, and went to the indoor gym. Last week, we paid the price for it by all coming down with horrendous colds. I knew those places were germ factories, but the way I see it is we're building up her immunity now, so that when she starts school it will be good and strong!
Have I mentioned how lucky I feel? I get to spend so much time with my daughter.... just watching her wake up from her many naps on my chest. Yesterday, it was particularly fascinating watching her as she figured things out. We were spending the day in the baby room that I had enclosed so that Jason can work (which, by the way, I'm so thankful we made!!), and Little Miss was using me as a jungle gym. I was sitting against the wall with one knee up, and she tackled certain tasks and then diligently worked on them. For instance, my knee was up and a toy she wanted was on the other side, so she decided to crawl under. When she got to the other side, she forgot about the toy and decided to crawl under again, but she was too sideways and didn't fit. She eventually straightened out enough to fit through, and on the other side, she sat up. I could almost see the gears in her head spinning. Then she went through again, making sure she was straight, but her legs were too upright making her back to high to fit through. She must have gone through a dozen times putting it all together. Then she tackled stepping over the lower part of my leg: back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. Then she tried stepping over the part of my leg that was connected to my body and realized that wasn't possible when she face-planted into my other thigh. My favorite was watching her practice-- she was really practicing-- standing without holding on: she'd stand holding onto my knee and then let go for a moment. A couple times, she fell on her bottom, but she was unperturbed.
This went on for a good 45 minutes. Then she put on and removed a bottle top for ten minutes. Then she pulled a ball in and out of a cup for another ten. Then together we put rings on a cone.
A friend of mine said there was a recent study on the sudden incline in diagnosed ADHD cases, and the conclusion was as follows: the way children learn is through repetition, and by repeating things for so long, they learn to focus. But with all the busy parents putting their child in front of the TV or iPad for entertainment, they never develop the ability to focus. I'm so lucky that I can spend full days just watching my daughter figure things out and helping her along the way.
Get a cup of tea, settle in and prepare yourself to tackle a little novella if you're going to read this because I have a feeling it's going to be quite long!
My vacation in New Zealand was fantastic. We spent several days in Auckland and then ten days in the Bay of Islands at his family's batch... no internet, no cell phone...so restful. I'd actually consider moving there as it would be great for River, (it's rated one of the top places to raise kids) except for the complication of visiting friends and family; Jason's are all around one city, within a half-hour drive, whereas mine are in seven different states, so spending two weeks a year in New Zealand means spending a restful amount of time with each and all of them whereas two weeks a year in the States would mean a continuos stream of chaotic travel in an impossible mission to see everyone.
The restfulness of this time allowed my mind a clarity of thinking I didn't realize was missing, and the core reason for my sudden self-doubt hit me like a slap in the face: I'm perpetually tired. It's now been seventeen months since I've utilized any sleep-aids, seventeen months since I've gotten more than four and a half hours sleep total in a night. I don't know why it took me so long to figure out; I suppose stupidity is one of the symptoms of over-tiredness. A few years ago, I was taking a shower and couldn't figure out how to change the water from faucet to shower, I literally had to have Jason come and do it for me. I called my neurologist because I was convinced that this moronic slip-of-the-mind was an effect of the high potency sleep drug we'd finally found that worked on me: Xyrem, the date-rape drug, Ruffies. When I explained the situation to him, he said, Nope, sounds like you're over-tired, and sure enough, when I took more Xyrem, my mind came back.
The absence of my proper brain caused such angst; I couldn't think of what to say at the proper times, wasn't able to follow along the meaning of conversations, was forgetting things. I felt totally inadequate. (I speak in the past tense because I figured it out, not because it's remedied.) The personal frustration and feelings of inadequacy were accompanied by severe discontent with my teaching abilities. Before, I'd always felt I was a good teacher, was thankful that if I couldn't ride, at least I could teach. And then suddenly that was taken from me, too. I don't know why I didn't realize (well, I guess I'm now discovering why the reason eluded me). Before I had River, I knew that although I could function normally on 4-4 1/2 hours sleep, to teach properly for a whole day I needed six hours, so before clinics, I'd dose up on the Xyrem to make sure I got enough sleep.
My plan was to stop breast-feeding after New Zealand anyway, and now I have a new reason to do that. I teach one clinic before she'll be completely off the breast, but I'll plan to pump and dump (pump my drugged breast milk and dump it rather than feeding it to her) for that one, so I should be good to go. I'm extremely humiliated that some people may have seen me teach during those months (I'd say since June), and judged my value based on what they saw. I'm saddened that through my poor teaching at the NEDA show, I (rightly) lost some potential local clientele. But I'm happy that I now see a legitimate reason and eventual return to normalcy rather than just lamenting that it seems I've forgotten how to teach.
I'm excited about life again. This morning I registered Little Miss for weekly swim classes as well as tumblin' tikes, which is like a start to gymnastics where they play and tumble. It's officially for 1-2 year-olds but she got special dispensation. Of course Koryn or Jason will have to get in the pool or tumble with her, but I get to watch and I feel so lucky to have that ability.