Monday, August 31, 2009

more to do with horses

During August we have been having lots of fun with our horses!
These are some pictures of Blaze riding up at Vedauwoo, a forest recreation area near our house. This was her first official trail ride with us (other than just short rides around our house). She did wonderful! My mom went along with us, too, riding Rebel. Rebel is 27 years old now and he's starting to look his age, but he doesn't act his age at all! Mom was constantly having to slow him down and circle him around so the rest of us could catch up. Those two are real pair... Mom doesn't act her age, either (she is still riding horses, skiing, roller-blading,etc!)
Vedauwoo is one of my most favorite places to ride, with some cool shady aspen forests and lots of big open meadows for running. The fantastic rock formations make it very scenic.

Another favorite place to ride is on Mear's Morgans Ranch, along the Laramie River. We took our young horses, Jewel and Folly, here a few weekends ago to get them used to crossing water. While we were working with the horses, the twins and Dreamer had a blast playing in the river.

Here is B. on Folly, trying to get her to cross the river the first time, and Blaze trying to get her horse across the river for the first time. Both horses are doing the typical "dancing" at the edge of the water - not sure if they want to get their feet wet!

Finally B. switches to his regular horse, Ally, and leads Blaze across.

After a while, Blaze is able to get her horse to cross by herself. Though he is still looking a little uncertain, here.

Meanwhile I was working with my horse, Jewel. Once Jewel figured out that the water wasn't going to eat her alive, she started having fun with it. She started pawing at the water and even tried to lay down in it (with me still on her!)

After playing in the river for a while, we practiced jumping Jewel and Ally over some of the little log jumps down by the river. There are a lot of huge jumps, too - Mears Morgans hosts a the "Windy Wyoming Event" every year - but our young horses have a long way to go before we start tackling the whole jump course.

Another weekend we took Blaze to a horse show in Cheyenne. Here is Blaze and Dreamer with a miniature horse at the show.
Blaze rode Ally in two events, Western Pleasure for rookies (other kids just starting to show) and she got 2nd place, and Western Equitation, which she got first place! It started to rain and thunder like crazy soon after she finished, so I never did get a picture of her up on Ally with her ribbon.
My friend K.A., who used to live in Laramie but turned traitor and allowed her husband to move her down to Colorado Springs (grrrrr) was here a couple weekends ago and here is a picture of her and her son Daniel feeding Jewel (Jewel is always the first horse to the fence to see if anyone has goodies) and another horse that B. is training right now for extra money.

We're hoping to have a lot more fun with horses yet this fall. Blaze is 8 years old now so she can join the 4H club for horses. B. will probably go hunting again this fall and he usually takes the horses at least once or twice. And I hope to get a few more mountain trail rides in, during my favorite time when the aspen leaves are changing.

A quick add-on to do with writing progress. I seem to only be able to find time to write once a week, if that. However I did finally finish re-writing chapter 16 (though I'm not happy with it... sent it off to S.W. to see if she can help me with it at all) and got a good start on chapter 17. Now that the first week of school is behind us, hopefully I can get settled into the new schedule and start writing/editing more regularly.

Beth Moore's scripture memory challenge continues to be a blessing for me - I have all 22 verses of Psalm 34 memorized (now I just have to keep reviewing it). Here are the last few verses I worked on, in August:
Psalm 34:17-22
The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them
He delivers them from all their troubles.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted,
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
A righteous man may have many troubles,
but the Lord delivers him from them all.
He protects his bones, not one of them will be broken
[a prophecy about Christ]
Evil will slay the wicked;
the foes of the righteous will be condemned.
The Lord redeems His servants -
no one who takes refuge in Him will be condemned.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

a mountaintop experience

Last weekend B. gave me Saturday "off" from kid-duty so I could go on a hike with a bunch of friends from my church, Laramie Valley Chapel. Treva has started a women's outdoor ministry, informally called the "BMW's", or Burly Mountain Women (though I called it "Barely Mountain Women" - referring to myself, of course. Treva really is a mountain woman - she has climbed mulitple Fourteeners in Colorado. I affectionately call her Gear Girl).

August 8 was the day to tackle climbing Medicine Bow Peak, the highest peak in Wyoming's Snowy Range at 12,013 feet. Meeting at the church at 6:30 am on a Saturday caused some grumbling, but leaving early was soon rewarded because we saw these three moose on our drive up to the trail head. (This has definitely been the summer for moose sightings! A couple weeks ago a young moose trotted right by our church, and then two days later B. saw two moose in our backyard and followed them through our neighborhood for a while. He said they were so big they didn't jump fences, they just stepped over them.)

Here we are just starting off on the trail, hiking around Lewis Lake.

The wildflowers were magnificent. Though everyone grows columbine in their backyards in Laramie, the domesticated flowers are never as beautiful as the wild ones.

Here we are taking a break to catch our breath. The lady beside me, Sophia, is 55 years old. I hope I am still climbing mountains at that age! The trail starts out nice and flat, but it quickly gets steep. Though only 1.8 miles from the trail head to the top of the mountain, it's a 2000 foot gain. We had to stop every 10 minutes or so for a quick breather. Near the top, I started to feel light-headed. Sheila and I standing at a magnificent overlook - Lake Marie at the base of the Snowy Range.

Here is Treva scrambling over boulders, near the top. At this point the trail completely disappears - it's just a boulder field, with rock piles or cairns to mark the direction.

Bouldering is hard work! Treva and I decide to take the easy route along a ridge of snow.

At last! Despite Sophia's claim that someone kept moving the top of the mountain back, here we all are finally at the very top! I did this climb about 12 years ago with my dear friend Karen, but I had forgotten how amazing the 360 degree view was! We also lucked out this time that it wasn't even very windy.

Standing (from left to right): Treva, Michelle, Heather
Sitting: Sheila, Kim, Sophia, me, Mehrnoosh

This mountaintop experience was more than just a great view and feeling of accomplishment. Before we started, Treva had given us each a card with these verses for us to memorize and meditate on during our trek.

1 Corinthians 15:1-5

Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve.

While we sat around on the boulders at the top sharing trail mix and other goodies, some of us recited these verses from memory and then Treva talked a little a bit about how important the Gospel is, but how we are tempted sometimes to try to "dress it up" to make it more appealing as we try to share it. But really it is powerful all by itself.

It started a great discussion with Sheila's friend Mehrnoosh, a Muslim from Iran who is a graduate student in Engineering here at the University of Wyoming. She is very smart, a real thinker. She shared that she has many misgivings about Islam, but she couldn't see that Christianity was all that different. She sees Christ as a prophet, and so views him the same as the Muslim prophets. We tried to explain how Christ was different from the other prophets because he was both 100% God and 100% man - basically God becoming man, just like us, so He could experience what we experience. Because He was a man like us, he encountered all the same temptations we face, but because he was God he was able to overcome these temptations and never sin. And because he never sinned, He was therefore able to a "perfect" sacrifice for our sins, so that when we believe in Him we are saved - rescued - from the penalties of our own sins.

She also asked us how we could believe that what our Bible says is 100% true, because she feels things have been added to the Quran over the years to corrupt it for specific purposes (suppression of women, for one. I was pleased to hear that Iran does allow women to vote, but of course their last election was completely bogus. Mehrnoosh was very upset about that). So then Treva gave this truly inspired description of how the Bible was written by over 40 authors over a thousand years and yet none of it contradicted and all the prophecies about Christ came true. And to top it off, the another hiker came along and overheard our conversation and then proceeded to add additional arguments. He was a believer too. (Praise You, God for sending him along too right at that moment!)

Treva also asked Mehrnoosh if she remembered the story of Abraham being asked by God to sacrifice Isaac. She said yes, this story is in the Quran too. Then Treva said, "do you remember how at the last minute God told Abraham to stop, and that God provided a ram as a sacrifice instead? and she said yes. "That's Jesus," Treva said. "the sacrifice was Jesus."

I don't know if that made any impression on Mehrnoosh, but we were all thrilled that we got to have a discussion with her about the Gospel and "plant seeds." I don't think she felt threatened by us - even though there were 7 of us Christians and only one of her - I think everyone was respectful to let her share her own beliefs and doubts. I think she is probably the first Muslim I have ever met that I've had a chance to really talk to. We had all sorts of questions for her about what life in Iran is like and it was fascinating to hear her answers. I asked what she thought was the strangest thing about Americans, and she said that we eat so much fast food! But she also said that she was surprised by how family-oriented Americans are. In her country they have spread propaganda that we are anti-family.

The hike back down was harder for me than going up, as it always is - hurts my toes and my knees something fierce. But we were well rewarded back at the trail head because Treva provided lunch for all of us! Sandwiches (garnished with fresh veggies from her own garden), hummus and chips, cookies and fresh peaches. My mouth is watering just writing about it. Simple food becomes a feast after a hard workout like that!

Photo credits all go to Heather. many thanks!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

a few lessons about birthday parties

Blaze and I decided to do a Hawaiian Luau theme for her 8th birthday party, which was last week on August 5 (I've needed almost a whole week to recover from it!)
Actually it was an easy party to put together, because we already have a lot of beach-type decorations (Blaze and Dreamer's room is done in beach-theme), and our church also had a lot of luau decorations that I borrowed. Add a couple easy crafts and game ideas from, stuff a pinata with candy, warn your husband he's going to have to lead horses around for pony rides, invite 10 girls, and you have the recipe for a perfect party, right?

I know Blaze was absolutely thrilled with her party, but here's a few things I might do differently next time!

Lesson #1 - don't have it on a week night

When your birthday is in the middle of the week, it's painful waiting for your party on the weekend. So I choose from 6:30-8:30 pm Wednesday night, right on her birthday. I figured that would give me all day to get ready. What I forgot, is that dinner has to happen around 5:30, and because it always takes me longer to get dinner than I expect, I was still frantically cleaning up and throwing dishes in the sink when the girls started to arrive! Also because it was a week night, some of the kids' parents came to get them earlier before the party was over.

Lesson #2 - crafts aren't as easy as the instructions say they are

If you're going to do crafts with 10 girls, try them out ahead of time so you know exactly what to expect. And have someone to help you because all you will hear for the next 20 minutes is "I need help!"

Here's the girls busy stringing hawaiian beads for necklaces and glueing together foam turtles, flowers and surfboards for refrigerator magnets.

The girl in black looking right at the camera is Nicole - Blaze has been spending a LOT of time with her this summer.

Lesson #3 Kids would rather ride horses than play games.

I love kids games. I love relay races and playing tag and capture the flag and I even like musical chairs and pin-the-tail-on-the donkey. I'll probably still want to play party games when I'm 80. But I forget how insecure kids can be about games!

Anyway, I found a few variations on games with a beach/Hawaiian theme: one was seeing how fast you could fish a dozen duckies out of a kiddie pool while blindfolded; another one was a "lei race" - two relay teams racing to put on as many leis around their necks as possible. We started with the ducky game, but several of the girls said "I don't like games, could I ride one of the horses instead?" They must have seen B. saddling Keg and Rebel, our two trusty "bombproof" horses. So we spent the next 45 minutes giving pony rides, and we never did get around to the lei race. But Blaze didn't mind, because B. saddled Jewel for her with her new neon pink reins (the matching saddle pad is on order), and while the other girls were being led around at a walk, she got to trot and lope around on Jewel and hear everyone exclaim "wow, she's a really good rider!"

After we finally coaxed all the girls off the horses, we hung up the pinata and let them beat it up. Here's a picture of Blaze still in her "riding outfit" - her Hawaiian print bathing suit, a sarong, and cowboy boots (she had a grass skirt on earlier but took it off before riding so it wouldn't spook the horses).
We ended the party with the usual singing around the cake (Blaze insisted on an ice-cream cake, and that's another lesson I learned last year... a lot of kids don't like regular cake) and then opening presents.

Here's a shot of all the kids oogling the loot.

This year the trend in presents seem to be "littlest pet shop" and "furberries". A furberry is what looks like a furry berry (it even smells like a berry) and then it pops open and becomes a purple teddy bear. Blaze also asked for anything "Ponyville" (tiny horses with names like "Cupcake"). Oh yeah and Bendaroos (waxy string like things that you can use for decorations or for building).

The best present, in my opinion, was Grandma H. giving her a year's worth of ballet lessons. (It's going to be a busy year: 4H starts this year, too. Plus there's soccer in the fall, and AWANA).

Lesson #4 Girls don't get along very well.

I actually learned this one last year. It's tricky when you invite a bunch of school friends, who all know each other, and then other friends who know Blaze but don't know anyone else at the party (a friend from our neighborhood, Ruby; friend from church, Claire; friend via parents' friends, Tabitha). That's why I planned crafts and games to try to keep them all occupied so there wouldn't be so much opportunity for feeling "left out". It went a lot better his year but there was still a few signs of girlish cattiness. Next year I'm tempted to try to limit her to picking fewer friends, but I know that is no guarantee. Why are young girls so catty and fickle with each other? I remember that after age 10, I was too afraid to have my own birthday parties anymore!

Fortunately this hasn't been the case so far for Blaze. She looked forward to her party for months and wasn't disappointed one bit. So I am very relieved. And now, almost a week later, I finally have all the decorations taken down (though I'm still finding koolaid stains on the floor, and bits of wrapping paper under chairs). I'm so glad I won't have to worry about planning a party for the twins' birthday for at least another couple years!