What’d you miss? Mites and more


There’s no way to rehash the could’ve-been blog posts from recent months. But here are a few events and observations that come to mind. In no particular order:

*I completed 3,000 pushups in 30 days.

*Jazz and I helped with crowd control at the Potomac Hunt Races. Anxiety fueled Jazz’s flop sweat in the opening parade.

 Hunt Races


*Pigpen (our aged car) shed some interior bolts and other parts of questionable importance.

*Cayden, Hadley and Brynn participated in school recitals, riding lessons, pony club, baseball, softball, and drama club.

*At one point, I wore the same clothes for three days.

*Martin found a decomposing raccoon in the hayloft.

*I trailered Rocky home from a riding lesson, driving a truck with a flat tire and an empty fuel tank.

*Cayden met Zeb Hogan, host of Nat Geo’s “Monster Fish.”


*I found a starved dog, dumped on the road.

*My insomnia ran amok. I quit Ambien, then took it up again.

*We discovered that barn swallows shed bird mites when they are nesting.

*The kids slept in a tent in the yard, until a storm nearly blew them away.

*My friend Sarah competed in a sidesaddle race and placed 2nd.


*I opened the mailbox one day and found a field mouse staring back at me.

*We plotted several farm improvements but accomplished none of them.

*Cayden and Hadley learned to surf.

*I treated Hadley’s infected toe using the horses’ Ichthammol, per my veterinarian’s instructions.

*Maisie stayed at a nice hotel with us.


*Martin considered removing a wasps’ nest by grabbing it with gloved hands, and stuffing it into a trash bag. He changed his mind when I started videoing the event.

*I cleaned out my mom’s freezer and threw out cans with sell-by dates from 15 years ago.

*I quit the blog and picked it up again.



Jezebelian power


Unadulterated terror.

That is Brynn’s response to Jezebel.

Tears. Hysterics. Guttural screaming and crying, followed by panicked flight: she bolts like an animal outrunning a forest fire.

Eye contact is all it takes to trigger a reaction. In fact, the mere mention of Jezebel trips Brynn’s DEFCON system.

So who is this Jezebel?

She’s a goat who roams the farm where the girls take riding lessons.

At first glance, Jezebel commands little concern. She’s typical goat height, marked with brown fur both fore and aft, and white in the middle. Her most defining characteristic: a bizarre, belly bulge. She looks like she’s swallowed a large serving tray and it’s lodged widthwise. In addition, she has long horns but they seem muted, curled around her skull.

Mostly, Jezebel is part of the scenery. Like a dog, she wanders (or waddles) around the property and gazes at people with vacant, vaguely menacing eyes.

Despite this, she lives up to her name: she is wicked and shameless. With no warning and deceptive speed, she’ll drop her head and drive her horns against flesh and bone. I’ve been the recipient of a head butt and it wasn’t pleasant.

Apparently, so has Brynn. Her concern is well-founded. She should be wary.

But over the last year, fear has escalated to unbridled terror. It doesn’t matter that Jezebel is easily outrun, avoided or confined; Brynn has a Pavlov’s Dog response, even when she’s safe inside the car. The goat can be 50 yards away and Brynn dissolves into terrified hysterics. She’ll pound senselessly at the door-lock button, all the while screaming, and scramble in the car’s farthest corner.

Typically, I’ll comfort Brynn and try to calm her down, while someone rattles a bucket of grain to lure Jezebel from sight.

But there are days when I let Brynn’s emotions gallop unchecked.

For a minute or two.


Because it’s a marvel.

I hesitate to admit this, but Brynn — with her intractable personality — exacts certain power over our family. Unlike most 4-year-olds, she’s resistant to the parent’s toolbox of discipline: sensible reasoning, reverse psychology, treats and rewards, threats and punishment. And whether she’s waged a skirmish against us, or Cayden or Hadley, she’s often able to use kindness, sympathy, willfulness or anger to gain advantage.

Most parents don’t face such obstacles until their kids reach adolescence. Brynn is years away and already, she’s poked holes in the prevailing system.

So, there are days when I feel battle weary. Like Brynn is constantly raising the challenge flag and winning the point. She seems armor plated.

And then, along comes Jezebel:

Brynn’s one, true kryptonite.



Ireland at a gallop


I’m posting a few more photos from Ireland, because past travel is more palatable than the current situation: snowed in and housebound with three antsy kids.

Ireland is not a popular winter getaway. No one ventures there in February to escape the weather. But I do. It’s good for fox hunting and the tourist population is minimal.

Weatherwise, I dodged a bullet. Martin texted this picture from Maryland.



While he was shoveling snow, I was kicking around Ireland with Brynn and friends. (Home base was Kilcoglan Castle. My friend Karen owns it. I blogged about it last year, here.)

We spent two days in Co. Cork, near the southern coastal town of Clonakilty. While there, we got a dose of stormy weather and roiling waves.



When the clouds broke, however, everyone spilled out onto the beach.

What a mob scene. Barely a square of sand to spare.



Actually, the resort was packed with vacationers. It was mid-term break for Irish schools, and lots of families were on holiday. Brynn had plenty of company. Especially after dinner, when random kids roam the hotel, meet one another, and travel in packs.

They kinda reminded me of rodents: at first you wouldn’t see any, then you’d spot one loitering on the stairs, or one nosing around a bookshelf. They’d band together and suddenly you’d spy a herd of 4- and 5-year-olds. Then they vanish for 30 minutes and reappear again.

By 11 pm, they’d be out of steam.




Back in Co. Galway, at Kilcolgan Castle, Karen (a.k.a, “Auntie Sheep”) put ‘Zilla to work walking dogs.




There were plenty of dogs to walk.



On Saturday, Auntie Sheep kindly watched Brynn while my friend Sarah and I went fox hunting with the Galway Blazers. Sarah drew a nice hireling named “Harvey.”



I wasn’t quite so lucky.

My hireling — a dull-mouthed, chestnut monstrosity named “Jumbo” — pulled me at lightning speed over miles of countryside and oodles of obstacles. When a fox took us for a run, we ran… past everyone else. When riders lined up to jump a wall, Jumbo seized the bit, lowered his head and rushed forward, knocking aside anyone in his way.

“Sorry!” I’d scream over my shoulder. Once his hooves hit the ground, Jumbo was off again, apparently fueled by rocket propulsion.

We hunted for five hours. Occasionally my rubbery arms got a rest and I’d pull out my phone and snap a rear shot.



All in all, it was a good day. It’s always a good day when you dodge injury.

Ultimately, there was no time to whine about the long drive from Clon, or five hours on a runaway horse. That evening we attended Blazers’ hunt ball.


Pre hunt ball, in the castle



Later in the trip we stomped around Galway, Connemara and beyond.

It was a great jaunt. I wish I could be back there again.

Honestly, I’d take a teeth-clenching ride on Jumbo to escape the scene right here, right now.