This page has moved to a new address.

Carrie Elle

----------------------------------------------- Blogger Template Style Name: Rounders 3 Designer: Douglas Bowman URL: Date: 27 Feb 2004 ----------------------------------------------- */ body { background:#123; margin:0; padding:20px 10px; text-align:center; font:x-small/1.5em "Trebuchet MS",Verdana,Arial,Sans-serif; color:#ccc; font-size/* */:/**/small; font-size: /**/small; } /* Page Structure ----------------------------------------------- */ /* The images which help create rounded corners depend on the following widths and measurements. If you want to change these measurements, the images will also need to change. */ @media all { #content { width:740px; margin:0 auto; text-align:left; } #main { width:485px; float:left; background:#eec url("") no-repeat left bottom; margin:15px 0 0; padding:0 0 10px; color:#333; font-size:97%; line-height:1.5em; } #main2 { float:left; width:100%; background:url("") no-repeat left top; padding:10px 0 0; } #sidebar { width:240px; float:right; margin:15px 0 0; font-size:97%; line-height:1.5em; } } @media handheld { #content { width:90%; } #main { width:100%; float:none; background:#eec; } #main2 { float:none; width:100%; background:none; } #sidebar { width:100%; float:none; } } /* Links ----------------------------------------------- */ a:link { color:#9db; } a:visited { color:#798; } a:hover { color:#fff; } a img { border-width:0; } #main a:link { color:#347; } #main a:visited { color:#666; } #main a:hover { color:#68a } /* Blog Header ----------------------------------------------- */ @media all { #header { background:#357 url("") no-repeat left bottom; margin:0 0 0; padding:0 0 8px; color:#fff; } #header div { background:url("") no-repeat left top; padding:8px 15px 0; } } @media handheld { #header { background:#357; } #header div { background:none; } } #blog-title { margin:0; padding:10px 30px 5px; font-size:200%; line-height:1.2em; } #blog-title a { text-decoration:none; color:#fff; } #description { margin:0; padding:5px 30px 10px; font-size:94%; line-height:1.5em; color:#abc; } /* Posts ----------------------------------------------- */ .date-header { margin:0 28px 0 43px; font-size:85%; line-height:2em; text-transform:uppercase; letter-spacing:.2em; color:#586; } .post { margin:.3em 0 25px; padding:0 13px; border:1px dotted #bb9; border-width:1px 0; } .post-title { margin:0; font-size:135%; line-height:1.5em; background:url("") no-repeat 10px .5em; display:block; border:1px dotted #bb9; border-width:0 1px 1px; padding:2px 14px 2px 29px; color:#333; } #main a.title-link, .post-title strong { text-decoration:none; display:block; } #main a.title-link:hover { background-color:#fff; color:#000; } .post-body { border:1px dotted #bb9; border-width:0 1px 1px; border-bottom-color:#eec; padding:10px 14px 1px 29px; } html>body .post-body { border-bottom-width:0; } .post p { margin:0 0 .75em; } { background:#fff; margin:0; padding:2px 14px 2px 29px; border:1px dotted #bb9; border-bottom:1px solid #eee; font-size:100%; line-height:1.5em; color:#666; text-align:right; } html>body { border-bottom-color:transparent; } em { display:block; float:left; text-align:left; font-style:normal; } a.comment-link { /* IE5.0/Win doesn't apply padding to inline elements, so we hide these two declarations from it */ background/* */:/**/url("") no-repeat 0 45%; padding-left:14px; } html>body a.comment-link { /* Respecified, for IE5/Mac's benefit */ background:url("") no-repeat 0 45%; padding-left:14px; } .post img { margin:0 0 5px 0; padding:4px; border:1px solid #586; } blockquote { margin:.75em 0; border:1px dotted #596; border-width:1px 0; padding:5px 15px; } .post blockquote p { margin:.5em 0; } /* Comments ----------------------------------------------- */ #comments { margin:-25px 13px 0; border:1px dotted #6a7; border-width:0 1px 1px; padding:20px 0 15px 0; } #comments h4 { margin:0 0 10px; padding:0 14px 2px 29px; border-bottom:1px dotted #6a7; font-size:120%; line-height:1.4em; color:#333; } #comments-block { margin:0 15px 0 9px; } .comment-data { background:url("") no-repeat 2px .3em; margin:.5em 0; padding:0 0 0 20px; color:#666; } .comment-poster { font-weight:bold; } .comment-body { margin:0 0 1.25em; padding:0 0 0 20px; } .comment-body p { margin:0 0 .5em; } .comment-timestamp { margin:0 0 .5em; padding:0 0 .75em 20px; color:#fff; } .comment-timestamp a:link { color:#fff; } .deleted-comment { font-style:italic; color:gray; } .paging-control-container { float: right; margin: 0px 6px 0px 0px; font-size: 80%; } .unneeded-paging-control { visibility: hidden; } /* Profile ----------------------------------------------- */ @media all { #profile-container { background:#586 url("") no-repeat left bottom; margin:0 0 15px; padding:0 0 10px; color:#fff; } #profile-container h2 { background:url("") no-repeat left top; padding:10px 15px .2em; margin:0; border-width:0; font-size:115%; line-height:1.5em; color:#fff; } } @media handheld { #profile-container { background:#586; } #profile-container h2 { background:none; } } .profile-datablock { margin:0 15px .5em; border-top:1px dotted #7a8; padding-top:8px; } .profile-img {display:inline;} .profile-img img { float:left; margin:0 10px 5px 0; border:4px solid #bec; } .profile-data strong { display:block; } #profile-container p { margin:0 15px .5em; } #profile-container .profile-textblock { clear:left; } #profile-container a { color:#fff; } .profile-link a { background:url("") no-repeat 0 .1em; padding-left:15px; font-weight:bold; } ul.profile-datablock { list-style-type:none; } /* Sidebar Boxes ----------------------------------------------- */ @media all { .box { background:#234 url("") no-repeat left top; margin:0 0 15px; padding:10px 0 0; color:#abc; } .box2 { background:url("") no-repeat left bottom; padding:0 13px 8px; } } @media handheld { .box { background:#234; } .box2 { background:none; } } .sidebar-title { margin:0; padding:0 0 .2em; border-bottom:1px dotted #456; font-size:115%; line-height:1.5em; color:#abc; } .box ul { margin:.5em 0 1.25em; padding:0 0px; list-style:none; } .box ul li { background:url("") no-repeat 2px .25em; margin:0; padding:0 0 3px 16px; margin-bottom:3px; border-bottom:1px dotted #345; line-height:1.4em; } .box p { margin:0 0 .6em; } /* Footer ----------------------------------------------- */ #footer { clear:both; margin:0; padding:15px 0 0; } @media all { #footer div { background:#357 url("") no-repeat left top; padding:8px 0 0; color:#fff; } #footer div div { background:url("") no-repeat left bottom; padding:0 15px 8px; } } @media handheld { #footer div { background:#357; } #footer div div { background:none; } } #footer hr {display:none;} #footer p {margin:0;} #footer a {color:#fff;} /* Feeds ----------------------------------------------- */ #blogfeeds { } #postfeeds { padding:0 15px 0; }

Thursday, June 28, 2012

A Simple Guide to Getting Started with Cloth Diapers

The internet is full of information on cloth diapers.  So much information, in fact, that it can be overwhelming and tiresome to sift through it all.

When I was pregnant with Claire, I probably visited every cloth diaper website, blog, and online store in existence (not really, but it felt that way).  And at the end of the day, I was *still* not sure what diapers I wanted to use, how many I needed, etc. - and I had already cloth-diapered Jack for many months!  So basically, thanks to information overload, I ended up being more confused and unsure than when I actually started cloth diapering.

So, what I am going to do here is lay it all out for you in super simple steps (and be brand-specific!) so that you will know exactly what you need to buy and what you need to do to get started.  Once you have some experience, you can venture out a bit and try new things/add new diapers to your stash/make adjustments as you learn what you and your baby's needs are. Or, you can just keep this super simple routine - after about three years of cloth diapering, I have returned to my roots and simplified my routine (and diaper stash) considerably!

OK, let Carrie's Cloth Diapering Lesson for Beginners begin!

What You Need to Get Started

  • Diapers (duh, right?) - you can have as few or as many as you want.  I started with just two cloth diapers, alternating between disposable and cloth for months, while I slowly built up my stash.  If you have any older baby (a few months or more) and want to cloth diaper full-time, you'll need about 18 diapers, at least (I prefer having more so I can go two days between laundry if I want to).  
    • If you don't already have diapers, buy yourself some bumGenius 4.0 one-size pocket diapers (if you're not sure whether or not you're going to like cloth diapers, you can find a few pre-loved ones on eBay or Craigslist to try out - that way, you aren't out a bunch of money and if you don't like them you can likely recoup all of your money when re-selling them).  I have tried many, many diapers and the one brand I know I can safely recommend is bumGenius.  They are easy-to-use and will last forever.  One more note on the diapers - velcro closures are as easy as they come, but snaps will hold up longer (and are still pretty easy to use!).
  • Wetbag, or diaper pail with a liner - This is where you'll store your dirty diapers between washings.  If you only have a few diapers, you only need a smallish wet bag. If you have more diapers and are going longer between washing, you might want a garbage pail with a washable liner instead.
    • If you're going to be cloth-diapering while you're out and about, you'll also want a small wet bag to carry dirty diapers home in.
  • Diaper-safe Detergent - Using regular detergent can damage your diapers (they have dyes and perfumes that can build up on your diapers and cause them to repel, or leak).  I have tried four different cloth diaper detergents and I keep coming back to the bumGenius detergent - it just seems to get my diapers the cleanest.  
  • Cloth wipes - Cloth wipes are super easy to use and can save you lots of money.  You can make your own and use plain old water, or buy some awesome wipes and wipe solution.
    • My favorite brand of wipes is by far Thirsties (seriously, no other brand comes close).  Just like with the diapers, I started small and bought more as I went (I started with 12 wipes - now I probably have close to 40).
    • My favorite wipe solution is water mixed with some Ruby Moon wipe bits (a spray bottle mixed with one wipe bit lasts for a week at least).
If your baby is eating solid foods, and as a result pooping solid poop, you might also want:
  • Diaper liners - These flushable, biodegradable liners sit in the diaper right against baby's bum.  When you change the diaper, you just toss the liner in the toilet.  Every time my baby poops and I have a liner in the diaper, I feel like I WIN (at what, I'm not sure!).
  • Diaper sprayer - When I forget to put a liner in the diaper, I am always grateful for my diaper sprayer.  This certainly isn't a necessity, and does take some practice, but it's awfully nice to have when you need it (for example, when a diaper is covered in extra-nasty poop).
  • Disposable wipes - I know, sacrilege!  But really, I am all about keeping it simple and finding solutions that work.  When I am cleaning sticky baby poop off my baby's bottom, I like to use a disposable wipe or two first - that way I don't have to deal with cleaning poop off of a cloth wipe (because once they start having "real" poop, you're going to need to get it off the diaper before throwing it in the pail!).  Then I squirt her little bum with my wipe solution and use a cloth wipe to finish the job (oh, won't she just *love* to read this kind of stuff when she's in High School??).
This pink bumGenius diaper is almost a year old and in perfect condition!
These Thirsties wipes have wiped a lot of bottoms in the past year+, and they are still in excellent shape (and capable of wiping many more bottoms).

How to Use the Diapers

First thing first: prep your diapers.  "Prepping" diapers just means washing them (and drying them) a few times in diaper-safe detergent before using.  Not only does this get them extra clean, but it also helps build their absorbency (the more you wash you them, the more absorbent they become).  If you bought used diapers, I recommend stripping them first.  You can find information about stripping diapers here.

Once dry, they are ready for baby.

This seems silly, but when I received my first diapers (bumGenius pockets), I looked at them and thought, "OK, now do I use this thing?"  The snaps on the front - and the inserts - totally baffled me!

It's really easy, I promise.  Just snap the "rise" (front snaps) down to fit your baby, or leave unsnapped for a larger baby (see chart here).  If the diaper is snapped to the smallest setting, then you will snap the insert to the smallest setting as well.

Put the insert inside of the pocket (if you have a girl, and the insert is snapped down, put the folded part in the back of the diaper, folded side down - if you have a boy, put the folded part of the insert at the front of the diaper, folded part down).

Snap or velcro onto baby, and ta-da!  Baby is now wearing a cloth diaper.

In this house, a cute cloth diaper often counts as getting dressed. 

The diaper should be changed every 2-3 hours (you'll soon learn if you need to change them sooner or can wait a bit longer).  

If baby poops, and is exclusively breastfed, just remove the diaper and toss it in the diaper pail (whether or not you need to remove the insert will depend on your washing machine - my old machine would agitate the inserts out and I never had to deal with them, the new machine does not so I need to shake the insert out before tossing the diaper into the pail).

If baby poops, and is eating solids, then you'll need to toss the poopy diaper liner in the toilet first (you remembered to put in a liner, right??) or spray it off before putting the diaper in your pail.

For night time, you will want to add an extra insert (or two!).  I actually don't use my "regular" diapers at night - I use a diaper called a Lollidoo - but plenty of people add an insert or two to their bumGenius diapers and use them at night without any problems.

How to Wash Cloth Diapers

Be careful when you google "washing cloth diapers" - the incredible amount of information out there will leave you bewildered and possibly running for the hills (with nary a cloth diaper in sight).

Here is the thing to remember about cloth diapers: it's not rocket science!

My routine is very simple.  I wash the diapers (and pail liner) on cold with two scoops of detergent.  I then wash on hot with two scoops of detergent, and set the machine to do a second rinse (to make sure there is no detergent left on the diapers).  Then, I toss in the dryer (sometimes I hang the covers to dry, and if there are any stains I'll set them in the sun for a couple of hours, but for the most part everything gets dried in the dryer).  

If that doesn't work for you, just tweak your routine until it is working.  

A Few Things to Remember
  • Most "one-size" diapers are advertised as fitting from birth to potty training, but in reality they are probably not going to fit reliably until baby is about ten pounds.  Don't plan on using your one-size diapers for a newborn (unless your newborn is huge, and even then, they still might not fit right for a few weeks).
  • Cloth diapers are supposed to make your life better.  Not harder.   If something's not working, change it.  And certainly don't feel like it has to be "all or nothing" - nothing could be further from the truth!  Just using a few cloth diapers a day (or just cloth diapers on the weekends, even) can add up and save you money over time - not to mention keeping lots of diapers out of the landfills and doing something nice for your baby's bottom, too.  
  • Start small and inexpensive and grow your stash as you figure out what you like - there are a gazillion diapers out there and although most are awesome, some aren't that great (or might be great, but not for your particular baby).  Buy one or two of a new brand and make sure you like them before splurging on a bunch.
  • The products I linked to are favorites of mine, but I was in no way compensated for this post by any of these brands.  I have used these products for several months to several years now and can attest to their high quality!  Also, most products I linked are sold at Kissed by the Moon.  I am a Kissed by the Moon affiliate (click on their link in my sidebar).  I chose Kissed by the Moon to affiliate with because they have free shipping and they ship ridiculously fast - the last two orders I placed with them shipped out the same day (they also have a rewards program, and you can earn free diapers, yay!).
And finally, some more cloth diaper posts by Yours Truly:
  • Here's a little post on how I surprised myself by liking cloth diapers (who would've thunk it!).
  • If you want to see how several different brands of one-size diapers look on a two-month-old baby, read this.  This post also shows what I use for nighttime (and in case you're interested, a post is in the works showing all of these same diapers on the same baby, who is now almost a year old).

Questions?  Did I miss anything?

Labels: , , , ,

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Life Lessons From a Three-Year-Old

Having a three-year-old is trying.  It's physically and mentally and emotionally exhausting.  It's much harder than I ever imagined it would be, and some nights, by the time I fall into bed, I just want to scream.

The thing is, though...sometimes, I wish *I* could be more like my three-year-old.  Not the whining, tantrum-throwing, needs to be reminded to pee, puts underwear on backwards, only eats macaroni and cheese, me-me-ME part...rather, the imaginative and honest and true-to-self part.

Lately I've been trying my best to curb my frustration when I feel it rising after he asks me - for the ONE MILLIONTH TIME, I am sure! - what happened to the dinosaurs (I don't know what happened to the dinosaurs, ok!?  I. DON'T. KNOW.).  Instead, I try (my very hardest, because it takes some serious patience after answering the same question over and over and over and over again...) to think about it from his point of view.  I haven't given him a good answer yet ("I don't know what happened to the dinosaurs, Jack, maybe they got covered in lava!") and even if I did, it would probably be out of his realm of understanding (I tried telling him an asteroid hit the Earth once and killed them all, MISTAKE!).  So in that regard, why shouldn't he keep asking?  Ask until you get an answer you like, or at least, can understand, right?

And so, I've been keeping track of some of the things that my three-year-old does that are awesome.  Things that we should maybe incorporate into our "adult" lives.  Things that I wish I could be, and do, all the time.

Ask Questions
Seriously.  Ask questions, always, of everyone, about everything.  If the answer you get doesn't sit well with you, keep asking.  Ask until you are satisfied, and then, find something else to ask about.  And never, ever, ever stop asking questions or believe something just because it's what you've been told.

Use Your Imagination
I wish I could be as resourceful as Jack.  The beauty of being three is that you don't yet realize some things cannot be, and as a result, you can have whatever you want.  The other day, Jack needed a "blaster" like the one Optimus Prime apparently has on his arm.  Well, save one Star Wars gun we have laying around, we don't really have any blasters in our house.  So Jack found a cylindrical piece of Tupperware and asked me to tape it to his arm.  He now had a blaster "just like Optimus Prime!" and it was as simple as opening the cabinet and pulling out a plastic food-storage device and using a little packing tape.  Problem solved!

How many times have I thought, "I really need a ___," or, "I wish I had a ____."  I bet I could find what I need right under my nose if I'd use my imagination.

Don't Eat Food You Don't Like
It drives me crazy when Jack won't eat something I put in front of him that I absolutely know he would love if he'd just try it.  But you know what?  I'm picky.  As I've gotten older I've branched out and tried new foods (gasp!) all on my own.  When it comes to food, nothing drives me crazier than someone "forcing" me to try something.  In fact, some of the foods I just cannot convince myself to like are foods that I was required to eat as a child (milk, eww).

If someone puts green beans on your plate and you don't want them, by all means, don't eat them.

Be Honest
There have been many times when Jack does something he shouldn't do.  For example, taking a toy from his baby sister's hands.  "That's not nice!" I tell him.  "Why did you do that?"  And he always answers, and he hasn't yet figured out how to lie.  "Because I wanted to!" he will say, or, "I wanted the train toy."  Usually matter-of-fact and sincere in his delivery, it's hard to be angry when he's so...honest.  I mean, I'm still mad...but my usual response is something like, "OK, thanks for telling me the truth, now give the toy back to Claire," rather than just tossing him into time-out for causing trouble (and I'll be honest here, that's what I want to do more often than not!).

Be Yourself, Always
Jack lives his life in the moment, and always exactly how he wants to live it.  He hasn't shackled himself down with any of society's restraints, and he is himself in the purest sense.  He sings when he wants to sing, he asks what he wants to ask, he screams when he want to scream, he laughs when he wants to laugh, and he pretends to be a Transformer when he wants to be a Transformer.  He doesn't care what others think of him, and he's not afraid of his emotions (and sharing them with the world, for better or worse).  He is truly himself, at all times.

...What have your little ones taught you?

Labels: ,

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The 21st of June

It's the 21st of June and Claire is 11 months old...and that has me a bit sad.  My youngest, and likely last, child is about to turn a YEAR OLD.  I don't know where the year has gone...but I'll spare you and save the sentimental "I can't believe my baby is one" stuff for next month.

This is the ninth month in a row I have documented the very average and mostly boring details of our day.  I started way back in September, inspired by a post from Jill over at Baby Rabies - and it just happens that this month coincides with another "Day in the Life" post over at Baby Rabies!  So you can check out her post and also check out everyone who recorded their day and linked up to share.

Without further ado, I bring you...the 21st of June!

6:45 AM

Guess what?  It started early.

Claire woke up at 6:45.  Last night was a long night.  Charles took Claire and I slept for another 45 minutes.  Sweet, sweet sleep.

7:30 AM

Breakfast!  I have big plans for the morning.  We are going to the gym.  But first, we eat.

Mmmm.  Grapes.

It was as good as it looks.
The only thing missing from my breakfast was MY TEA.  I ran out of teabags.  This did not go well.  Luckily, Charles came to the rescue and made a quick Starbucks run.


All I want to do is get out of the house and get to the gym.  They have childcare and this is the highlight of Jack's day - he loves playing with all of the toys.  But OMG GETTING OUT OF THE HOUSE was challenging.  

Jack insisted on wearing long sleeves, even though it's the end of June in Texas (hot, y'all).  His logic?  "I'm cold and I only want my hands and my head to show out of my shirt."  

Umm, can't argue with that, I guess.  But here is his response to my request to please use the restroom while I got his sister dressed:

A few minutes later and we are finally in the car and on our way to the gym, and he's much happier.


Home from the gym, Claire is quick to fall asleep and  - praise the powers that be - actually stays asleep.  She sleeps for almost an hour (that's practically an eternity around here!) and I let Jack paint (his favorite activity) while she naps.

Painting is one of Jack's very favorite things - but the preparation and clean-up take more time than the actual painting, so I take great steps to avoid it when I can.  But today I was happy I had caved, because he painted me this rainbow:


It's noon, and Jack is so tired...but, as usual, fighting sleep.  And Claire is cranky and teething.  Fun.

My mom send this postcard in the mail today.  She's visiting my new nephew in California.  I felt this postcard...needed to be included somewhere.

Jack is at an awkward stage as far as sleep is concerned.  He can certainly go all day without a nap and often does...but on days when he doesn't nap, as the afternoon wears on, he grows clingy, and whiny, and starts messing with his sister and pushing buttons and OMGDRIVESMECRAAAAAAZY.  So around 2:00, Charles went and laid down with him and just a few minutes later, he looked like this:

While Jack sleeps, Claire naps on me and I check some emails.  I wrote a post for Today's Mama that went live today about Raw Vegan Cookie Dough Bites (which I just made for the second time, in a non-vegan version because I love chocolate chips, and they are so good!), and I actually got some feedback, which is nice (sometimes I feel like I send my blog posts into a giant black hole).

And then I have this sweet, sleepy baby on me and I start to get tired myself and I think "Oh, what the heck" and lay down with Claire for an hour.  These opportunities are few and far between.

But at 5:00, Jack is still asleep...and we need to wake him up.


I know better.  I let Claire do my dirty work.  It goes surprisingly well.

He wakes up like his mama (that would be...umm...not well).  This, along with a distaste for anything even a little bit spicy, might be the only trait he's received from me.

But then I get a smile, and that makes me very, very happy (have you ever tried soothing a cranky poltergeist before??  Because that's what it's like when he wakes up grumpy).


Charles plays in a local softball league and tonight is his last game (finally).  This is how we eat dinner (well, the kids anyway) - on the floor - because for whatever reason, no one will sit nicely at the table tonight.  So, they win.


When it comes to late-night activities (and yes, 7:30 PM is now "late" - I wish my 21-year-old self could see me now!), I am kind of a grump.  I like to get the kids bathed and to bed, not be gallivanting around town watching softball games and such.  But tonight was a fun night at the park, and although the guys didn't win the game, I was happy we got out of the house.

There are two funny things about these pictures.  One, Jack has his shoes on the wrong feet (which you can barely see in this little pic, but I asked him repeatedly to switch them and he insisted he was fine, running around with his toes hanging over the edge of his flip-flops for most of the night).  And two, in the bottom-left picture of Jack, he saw me coming and told a couple of kids, mid-Transformer-attack, to "hang on, my mom needs to take a picture!" and made them all wait.  I guess when you're Optimus Prime you can make everyone wait.


Jack tells me he's cold and get a robe to wear over his pajamas.  He watches Shrek while I nurse Claire to sleep (Charles is out with his teammates for an end-of-the-season celebration).


Jack is laying next to me as I write this, playing with Optimus Prime and definitely up past his bedtime.  I keep wishing he'd just fall asleep, already - but to no avail.  

OK Ladies and Gentlemen, I need to go get this kid to sleep.  Prepare yourselves for next month, when I get all weepy and sad about my baby turning a year old.


Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Donkey Show, Part 2

Did you read The Donkey Show, Part 1?  If not, I'll save you the trouble with this quick synopsis:

I had a few half-wild miniature donkeys sitting around and thought it would be fun to take them to a donkey show at the State Fair of Texas, thinking that because I had experience showing horses, donkeys would be a piece of cake (Do you know donkeys? Do you know horses?  Or, do you just realize how ridiculous that sounds?  Go ahead...laugh!).

And that brings us to Show Day.

Charles and I arrived at the showgrounds nice and early.  I had a lot of work to do to get these guys ready for their big debut.

I would be showing the donkeys in several classes - I'll break it down here so it hopefully makes sense.

Roxy and Donkey would each be shown in a "halter" class - this is a competition judged on manners and conformation, in which the donkeys compete against similar donkeys (for example, Roxy was a baby and would be competing in the Yearling class, against other donkeys who were all roughly a year-old, and Donkey was a "jack," meaning he had not been castrated, so he would be competing in a class against other jacks).

After the halter classes, they would be shown in performance classes.  A performance class requires some sort of skill and the donkey is judged against other donkeys on their ability to perform said skill with precision and obedience.  Some classes include riding, pulling a cart, log-pulling, or in our case, obstacles. Because the donkeys were too small to ride, the class was called Trail in Hand - meaning I would theoretically lead them through a course of obstacles they might encounter in a "trail"-like environment (crossing a bridge, walking over poles, etc.).

I took both donkeys out of their stalls and groomed them (pretty easy when they are 34" tall and have no hair, even if they were not as cooperative as I would have liked).  And then, I polished their hooves.

Hoof polish is like nail polish.  Only, it dries in a matter of seconds and doesn't come off.  Ever.  It's made to stay on the hooves of a very large animal that drags those very polished hooves through sand, and it does its job well.  I'm guessing it's made from some Super Chemical that is outlawed for human use, because I could only wish my nail polish had this staying power.

Whether or not hoof polish is used depends on the type of show you are attending, and in the case of the donkeys, hoof polish was a must!

This particular type of hoof polish is applied with a spongy brush.  You simply dip it in the polish, run the brush around the top of the donkey's hoof, and watch as it spreads down over the hoof, drying almost immediately.  This should have been the easiest part of the day.  But instead, it ended up sending me into a tizzy.

It turned out Donkey was ticklish.  And every time that little brush would even lightly glance against the long hairs right above his hoof (which I clearly neglected to see when I was clipping him...), he would stomp his foot.

The first time he did this, he bumped the brush and black polish splattered onto my hand and all over the concrete floor of the barn aisle (which was marked with rings of black paint from all the hooves that had been painted before us on the same surface).  So, I got smart and told Charles to pick up a hoof and hold it while I polished the other three, knowing that he couldn't stomp his feet if one was already off the ground, right?

Right!  He couldn't stomp his feet!  But he COULD REAR.  And rear he did, straight up into the sky, hitting the brush and splattering polish ALL OVER HIS WHITE BELLY, my shirt, and knocking the bottle over onto the ground.

I said a bad word.  I picked up the now mostly-empty bottle and said another bad word.  Donkey eyeballed me out of the corner of his eye.  He now realized the polish smelled funny and was 100% sure he was not going to participate in this ridiculousness from this point forward.  And he had black paint all over his belly.

The plan changed.  Before I could finish painting his feet (and oh, yes, I would be painting those feet!), I first had to remove the paint from his stomach.

Of course, it had already dried.  And no amount of water/brushing/soap/scraping would remove even a smidge of this dastardly polish.

So, to the tack store (a place that sells horse equipment) we went.  Because I happen to know that hoof polish remover exists.

But you know what?  They didn't have any.  And the clock was ticking.  It was getting closer and closer to showtime, and all those thoughts I'd had about just having fun were nowhere to be found.  I wanted my donkey to look good, dammit.

And this, my friends, is where Charles shines.  When I am a panicky mess, he is a rock,  He told me to get myself ready and that he would fix this problem, and off he went.  Where to, I have no idea.  But I trusted him, and quickly changed into clean clothes and braided my own mane and found my hat.

I should tell you now how someone is supposed to dress for a donkey show.

The proper attire includes western pants (plain old denim need not apply!), a nice shirt, a sports coat, boots and a hat.  The look is polished, simple, and professional.

It does not include jeans and a hokey button-up western shirt...which is exactly what I had worn.  I knew the required attire, but if you hadn't noticed, I left my "A" game at home.  I wasn't sure if I would continue showing donkeys or not, and the show had been expensive enough as it I made the decision to save some money and just wear what I already had with the exception of a few things I needed to purchase.  This was all fine and dandy, except I stood out like a sore thumb (as if I needed anything else to make us stand out at this point).

So there I was, wearing boots a half-size too large because they were the only ones I was able to find in my price range and a hat that didn't quite fit right because I couldn't justify the expense of a nice hat, holding a donkey who was wearing a cheap halter I'd bought off of eBay with a bunch of holes punched in it to make it fit and who had one painted hoof and a belly covered in black paint, waiting for Charles to magically save the day.

And like a beacon of light at the end of a dark tunnel, Charles appeared...armed with a can of...WD-40?

Apparently he had asked everyone who would listen how to remove hoof polish and finally...FINALLY...someone had an answer.  Just put a little WD-40 on a rag, apply to the offending polish, and VOILA...polish is removed.  Just.  Like.  That.

A few minutes of spot-cleaning and sneaky polish application later (maybe with a little help from a couple of capable bystanders), Donkey had sparkling black hooves and not even a hint of polish elsewhere.

He was ready.  I was ready.  To the warm-up area, we went.

Now, this is where things go from not-very-good to much, much worse.

Donkey rebelled.

He didn't want to go to the show anymore.  He started rearing.  Balking.  Striking out at me with his little front hooves.  Rearing and striking at the same time, even.  He quit, and we hadn't even started yet!

All of the other donkeys waited patiently, swishing their little tails in annoyance while their well-dressed handlers deftly maneuvered them out of our way as Donkey unleashed his fury.  Some of the donkeys gave him the stink eye (who did he think he was, anyway) and others ignored him completely.  The handlers, owners and spectators all watched quietly and many made sympathetic faces when I told them - between rears - that it was his first show.

And then it was our time to enter the arena.

There were seventeen people there to cheer us on.  SEVENTEEN.  For some perspective, there were probably about twenty people in the entire audience, and this included the seventeen from our Pep Squad.

And these seventeen spectators we brought?  They.  Were.  Loud.

As the other donkeys filed into the arena, my cheering section was already cheering for me - and we were still in the warm-up area, because Donkey didn't *want* to enter the show arena.  He reared, he backed up, he nearly ripped the lead rope from my hands...and then he burst forward, dragging me into the arena, much to the delight of the roaring crowd.

And so it went for the next ten minutes or so.  The other handlers put their donkeys through their paces.  I was lucky to have Donkey stand in one spot.  I believe the saying "full of piss and vinegar" would accurately describe Donkey's demeanor at that time.

It was no surprise when they called out the results, from last to first, and we were the first ones called.  Despite our last place finish, we still got a ribbon (this is the benefit to only having three other donkeys in the class!), and this brought great satisfaction to my cheering section, which was having great fun at my expense and growing rowdier by the second (and the louder they got, the less cooperative donkey became).

Two things about this picture.  First, do you see the judge standing there watching us?  She's dressed the way I was *supposed* to be dressed.  Secondly, do you see how donkeys feet are all splayed out?  Yeah, they weren't supposed to be like that.  But they do look shiny and black, don't they?

So as you can imagine, I didn't have much hope for Roxy's halter class.  Especially because it was the most competitive class of the day, with sixteen donkeys entered!  The *only* thing we had going for us was that because it was full of young donkeys, the judge was lenient towards their juvenile behavior.  It was easy enough to pretend that Roxy was well-trained and just acting like a baby rather than just being wild.

But I dragged Roxy into the arena (she didn't seem interested in participating, either), I was kind of ready for the day to be over, already.

We went through the paces as well as we could.  There was some rearing, some bucking, some balking.  The usual young donkey fare.  There were a lot of donkeys and many misbehaved, and it took a long time to get through the class.  Roxy and I were both over it.

It seemed like this class would never end.  The judge walked up and down the rows of donkeys, stopping here and there to inspect one more closely.  She stared at Roxy for what seemed like an extraordinarily long time, and I thought to myself it was a kind gesture (judges will often know their top horses/donkeys from the moment they walk into the arena, and if you are being inspected closely, it likely means you are being considered for a prize).  I was pretty sure she felt sorry for us and wanted to make me think she liked us, but I could see what we were up against!  Fancy, well-bred donkeys who arrived in expensive trailers and had several generations of winning show donkeys in their bloodlines.  I was under no false impression that we were going to be competitive.

When the judge handed the final results to the announcer I stood up and breathed a sigh of relief.  My knees hurt from all the squatting, and I was starting to get sweaty as the day warmed up.

After some discussion between the announcer and the judge, the results were read.

"In sixth place," he announced, to an arena of complete silence (every one of my cheering squad was on the edge of their seats!), "is Short n' Sweet Roxy!"

O-M-G.  I looked up in shock.  It!

The crowd WENT WILD.  They were screaming, stomping their feet, general spooking every single donkey within hearing distance.  Even the other competitors were cheering (it was pretty obvious it was our first show, and everyone was very supportive), as their own donkeys danced around their legs in response to the sudden outburst from the audience.

I gave Roxy a tug and headed towards the exit, the other competitors congratulating me as we walked out, a giant smile pasted on my face.

In fact, it was so loud that I could barely hear the announcer trying to gain control of the crowd and be heard above the melee.

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry!"  he was saying.  The crowd hushed.

"Sixth place actually goes to Little Donk, owned by..." but I didn't hear the rest.  I only heard enough to understand that we hadn't received sixth place after all.

The announcer had made a mistake.

There was a collective groan throughout the warm-up arena, the bleachers and the show arena as everyone realized what had happened.

Embarrassed, the announcer apologized again as we re-entered the arena, red-faced me dragging one reluctant little donkey as I looked at the cheering squad and shrugged.

We had barely returned to our place when the announced said, "FIFTH place goes to Short n' Sweet Roxy!" and if I thought it had been loud the first time, I was in for a surprise because they were even louder the second go-round...they brought the house down.

We walked out of the arena with our heads high to what pretty much equaled a standing ovation.

Roxy's owners were excited, her breeders were excited, our Pep Squad was excited, the casual observers who had witnessed my embarrassment were excited, and maybe most of all - I was excited.

Fifth place out of sixteen was not a bad showing at all, especially considering our company, my half-ass (hehe!) preparation, and the drama leading up to the Big Win.  It was a good day for Donkey Showing.

I'll be honest, it could only go downhill from there.  And downhill it went, fast.

We had two more events, remember?  Performance classes, that required actual...performance...from these disagreeable little donkeys.

Well, we never actually got a chance to perform.

Both donkeys were disqualified before even getting over the first obstacle.  Donkey refused to even enter the arena, letting me know loud and clear that his days as a show donkey were over.  Roxy entered the arena (high off her win, maybe?) and promptly planted her little hooves in one spot and refused to move forward.  At all.

But I was okay with that.  The little fifth place ribbon we had won earlier more than made up for the failures of the day.

And this was the show that kept on giving.

Several weeks later, after the excitement had worn off and I had decided to shelve donkey showing indefinitely, I received something in the mail from the State Fair of Texas.

It was a check. For $10.  Which, for the record, is about $390 less than we spent on attending the show, but that's beside the point.

It remains the one and only time I have ever won actual money from a horse (donkey) show.

That check has yet to be cashed.  In fact, Charles recently looked up my name at a website for unclaimed money and found that I had $10 from the State Fair of Texas waiting for me.  Maybe one of these days I'll cash in - but for now, that unclaimed money serves as a reminder of the time I decided to enter a donkey show with two nearly-wild miniature donkeys.  And that, my friends, is priceless.

Labels: , , , ,

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Donkey Show, Part I

You know that awful "icebreaker" they make you do at work events - the one where they go around the room and everyone has to share something interesting about themselves?  It's been awhile since I've worked, but I hated that.  I really, really hated that.

But it didn't matter that I hated it, because everyone had to participate.  What mattered was, did I have an interesting fact to share?  Because everyone else had something fascinating to say ("My parents are from Germany!"  "I drive a 15-year old car!" "I have a dog named Darth!").  And when they rolled around to me, every head turned my way and I could feel every pair of eyes boring into my soul.  And I delivered.

"My name is Carrie, and I won money in a donkey show with my show donkeys."

BOOM.  Just like that, I was officially the *most* interesting person in the room.

Most people laughed.  They assumed I was kidding.  I was business casual in a north Dallas country club at an insurance professional's continuing education event.  I was not a donkey-showing country girl in shit-kickers.

And that, I suppose, summed me up at that time in my life.  I was all of those things.  Insurance professional by day, donkey showman by weekend.

It should be no surprise that I showed donkeys to those who know me best...they are, after all, the ones who grew up with me in 4H and FFA...yet, everyone thought it was funny that I was showing donkeys.  Me too, even.  The thing about donkeys is, they require a sense of humor.  And right now, I am tapping into that sense of humor of mine to bring this story to light so one day my kids will know about the time Mama took her country donkeys to the city for the Big Donkey Show.

It started innocently enough.  My husband's aunt gave us a miniature donkey, aptly named Donkey.

Donkey and Goat-Goat, shortly after arriving at our place (the Saga of Goat-Goat is a tale that also needs to be told...).

Shortly after, my husband's uncle decided he wanted to get a couple of these little critters for himself and we found ourselves boarding two additional donkeys, Roxy and Bella (this is when we lived in the country, in case you were wondering how they fit into our current suburban lifestyle).

So there we were, with three miniature donkeys.  And somehow or other, I discovered that the State Fair of Texas was hosting a Donkey Show!  It didn't take long for me to decide that a donkey show with a couple of mostly untrained donkeys was a great idea!

Now, I should say here that I know a thing or two about showing animals.  I have been showing horses since I was a wee lass, and I know what it's all about.  And donkeys have four legs and tails, so surely a donkey show couldn't be *that* different from a horse show, right?

Ha!  Hahahahahahahahahaha!

The first thing I did, after signing up, was attempt to train the donkeys.  Because mine were far from "trained."  Oh yes, they were tame, and friendly, and all up in your business 100% of the time, but they weren't really trained.  They were little, and like little dogs, I just kind of let them do their own thing, and if we really needed some proper behavior out of them (for example, when the vet came), they were small enough that we could just muscle them around (not that it was easy, or pretty...but certainly easier than actually training them proved to be).

Training went...okay.  They would usually walk properly once haltered, and occasionally put their feet where they were supposed to (like the dogs you see in dog shows, they are supposed to stand a particular way while they are being shown so the judge can inspect their conformation).  Sometimes they would walk over the obstacles I set out, even.  And by the Grace of God and All That is Holy, I managed to body clip them both on my own (that means, shave off their fuzzy coats) and trim their manes based on some pictures I had googled of show donkeys (I knew they were supposed to look a certain way, I just didn't know how to get them that way, ok?).

In case you were wondering how hairy donkeys are, here is Roxy a few months before the show (and, obviously, pre-shaving - you can see the shaved version below).
And before we knew it, it was time to go to the show.

Weather in Texas is persnickety.  The show was in early October, but it was cold, cold, cold that day, and the donkeys were bundled up in their jammies (remember, they had no hair because I shaved it all off) and and off we went!

This is Roxy, in the horse trailer, waiting to be unloaded for her big show debut.
Once the donkeys had been unloaded (I'd brought Roxy and Donkey, since Bella was pregnant and a little on the wild side, still), I walked around and learned my first lesson of donkey-showing.

I hadn't done a very good job trimming their manes.

Apparently there's a technique involved, one that surpasses holding a donkey's head still in one hand and manning scissors with the other.  I had kind of guessed that as I was manning said scissors, but at the time google proved to be useless when I typed in "trimming donkeys manes for a show," so I just did the best I could.

Well, the best I could do was not good enough!  These other donkeys looked sharp.  Their manes were little works of art.  Mine was too, but...not in the same way.  Mine was more...abstract.

So, I freaked out.  And promptly went looking for Roxy's breeders (who were also at the show and had promised to assist us in any way they could).  One thing about Donkey People - they are a really kindhearted and pleasant bunch, and like to help their own.  And before I knew it, I had learned the mane-trimming technique, borrowed a couple tools of the trade, and trimmed my donkeys' manes to near perfection.

Now, the donkeys were staying two nights at the Fair, and showing the second day, so I had some time to wander up and down the barn aisles and check out the competition.

And it was fierce.

Not only were most of these donkeys bred for the purpose of competition, but they were actually trained, too (imagine that!).  Typical donkeys are a dime of dozen (just check Craigslist), but show donkeys...not so much.  They are little, and cute, and expensive.  I had brought with me one free donkey that had spent most of his life living with a goat, and one donkey that had been purchased by my husband's uncle on the low end of the "show donkey spectrum."  We were outclassed, and I knew it (hey, I didn't win the FFA State Horse Judging Competition in 1996 for nothing!).

Not only were we outclassed, but we were also unprepared.  And not even dressed properly!

I was just there to have fun and gain some experience for myself and the didn't matter if we were the bottom of the barrel.  And even if my donkeys were "backyard" at best, especially when sized up against these other fancy, big-dollar show donkeys, this was going to be FUN.

And that is the attitude I had (along with our cheering section of a gazillion family members, extended family members, and their friends, too) going into Show Day.

To be continued...

Labels: , , ,