Sunday, November 29, 2009
The cosmos is also within us. We are made of star stuff.
(I'm sure right now somebody is thinking, "Ohh, there she goes again, being all weird!" But you know, most people take comfort in the thought of something larger. For some, it's Heaven. For me, it's the heavens. Plus, Richard Feynman is playing the djembe. It's like the video was made especially for me.)
Friday, November 27, 2009
It was a good Thanksgiving. AwesomeCloud met his great-aunt and great-uncle, and his second cousin, and had a grand old time shoveling mashed potatoes into his mouth. The food was delicious and the company was pleasant.
But I miss my Chica Chica. She died far too young. 7 years wasn't nearly enough. There's a profoundly empty cat-sized space in my heart.
I'm thankful this season, but I'm also sorry. I'm sorry AwesomeCloud won't get to know Trixie as he grows. I'm sorry she didn't have a chance to form a real relationship with him. I'm sorry she felt too ill to be properly catlike with him, and to show him how a cat and toddler should interact together.
I'm sorry I was unable to let her curl up for hours on my lap and be comforted. The baby kept me too busy. I'm sorry I couldn't come to her everytime she called out in the darkness of her brand new blindness. It must have been terrifying for her.
But I gave her a quick scritch whenever I could, and I got down on the floor when she couldn't jump, and I fed her extra soft food when she asked for it. I didn't do badly. I just feel guilty because I can't touch her at all anymore.
I'm sorry you were in pain, Trixie, and I couldn't do any more to alleviate it. I'm sorry I didn't slow down and give you more reasons to purr.
A lot of people may think it's a bit silly to go on and on like this about a cat. But she was a life here on earth, and I was responsible for her. She wasn't just an ornament and she didn't go with the furniture. She was.... she was herself. And she was very special.
We all lost a special family member. AwesomeCloud did too, even if he'll never grasp the depth of that loss. Even if the disappearance of that little furry face in his personal space barely registers.
I wish there were something else I could've done. I feel so helpless.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Trixie passed away this evening. She probably had cancer after all.
She was... what can I say about her? She was a superlative cat. She was gorgeous, gentle, high-strung, affectionate, and her ordeals were bigger than most cats' ordeals. She was an odds-beater. She took the long odds life gave her and beat them to a bloody pulp over and over. She worked hard at learning how to be a pet. She struggled to accept loving as well as she gave it. She gracefully adjusted to several major life changes, and she miraculously survived being lost for five weeks, three years ago this month.
She and I bonded hard, and I miss her terribly already. The last thing she did in life was curl up in my lap and purr.
The MRI people are going to wonder why I'm so teary-eyed tomorrow.
Monday, November 23, 2009
Then on 12/3 he gets an actual hospital stay, and all the other lovely things that go with surgery. There are lots of frustrating, silly, poignant, disgusting, and exhausting moments within his medical adventures, but I'm not writing about them here for reasons of privacy. I hope you all understand.
So. 5:00 AM! Are we ready?!?
(Uhhh.... no. We're a couple of grouches here. Grr.)
Saturday, November 21, 2009
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
I loved the African store in Jersey City, and this one is just as fun. Unfortunately it doesn't carry books. But they have a selection of djembes - not that we need djembes! We have three already, and three family members, but I must have a compulsion to collect djembes or something.
They also carry shea butter. The last time I bought shea butter, it ended up being my favorite cosmetic in the whole linen closet. It is apparently good for rashes, too.
I didn't buy anything today, but I hope the African store can stay in business, because it's the kind of place where I will occasionally spend my money, yes, even with my tightwad tendencies. I'll be pleasantly surprised if the Cape can support such a store. Ethnic specialty shops tend to struggle here. It's a shame.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
She also links some worthwhile charities on her blog, in case you're interested in donating yourself.
In other news, AwesomeCloud can now pretend to read his books.
Right now he's boogying down to a little techno music. This kid can really shake his thang.
Monday, November 16, 2009
Sunday, November 15, 2009
It started with a stray Cheerio. A stray, soggy Cheerio that had fallen off his high chair tray this morning. Later, I saw him pick a mote of dirt off the floor and put it in his mouth. "Haha, that'll teach you," I said, and fed him some real food to get the yucky taste out of his mouth.
Next time he was on the floor, I saw him grab for a leaf fragment. In it went. "Ack," I said, but it was gone too quickly for me to do anything about it. Besides, it was just a tiny leaf. It's... um... fiber. Yeah.
I scooted him into the living room, which I'd already swept, but he was sly and managed to find a bit of bark. I was able to dig that one out of his mouth. "No, don't eat that," I scolded him. "Yucky. Don't eat things off the floor." (Not that he has nearly enough English/cognitive skills to have a clue what I said. I'm sure tone of voice was the only thing that affected him.)
His face scrunched up and he began to cry, but I ignored him. I was too busy frantically sweep sweep sweeping every square centimeter of floor space I could find.
Please tell me this phase will be short. I'd like to skip ahead to the part where we laugh about it and are grateful it's over.
In other news, I'm really pushing AwesomeCloud's sippy cup skills and walking skills. He is humorously bad at both, but we keep trying. Fortunately, he's interested in both.
I confess I made an error last night. We recently bought a child development book recommended by our pediatrician, and last night I read all the 1-2 year milestones. OMG I'm such a bad mother. A terrible, horrible, neglectful baaaaad mother.
Didn't I swear off books? I'll swear them off again. No more books! The baby will grow and learn in his own way, and he has the parents he has, and if we're doing anything spectacularly wrong, we'll figure it out in due time. A parent who is fraught with guilt and self-loathing is worse than a parent who is blissfully unaware of what the experts say.
No more books. I am only allowing myself to read non-child-related books from now on. Like, there's one on the shelf that's been catching my eye called "Physics Demystified." That is a good choice. I bet "Physics Demystified" hardly mentions child development at all.
Saturday, November 14, 2009
He did come down with the cold, and it wasn't too bad. His nose is still runny but otherwise he's almost over it now.
So, yeah, our first sick baby experience. May subsequent illnesses be as mild.
We went to baby storytime yesterday and it was quite nice. There were other babies there. There were some toddlers his age, too, but he's more like the one-year-olds at the moment. He's catching up.
Today we're going shopping at the discount shops to get Christmas decorations cheap. We're sticking to a tight budget this year. It's been a year of massive expenses, and our bank accounts need a break. Food, family, and church! That's what Christmas should be limited to every year, not this big sprawling spendfest that starts before Halloween. And the political issues should be resolved - no decorations on public property, ever, and all the talk show hosts and commentators should just shut up.
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year. We show up, eat, and leave. Christmas should be like that too. Maybe we can give each other oranges like my grandmother's generation did when they were little. That would be perfect. Merry Christmas! Light a candle. Here's your orange.
Friday, November 13, 2009
You see, older parents are probably as guilty of permissive parenting as the books say. But we are also very, very much into success for our child.
It doesn't have to be material success. I would like AwesomeCloud to grow up to be a scientist or a doctor or a senator. I want him to marry a wonderful woman and have healthy kids and never lose his job or get divorced. I don't really want him to own a yacht or nine homes, because that would be a conflict of interest. I want him to be comfortable and happy. But if he's comfortable and happy living in a yurt raising llamas and making jewelry out of milkweed pods... okay! I can live with that! In fact I am exceptionally equipped to live with that.
I just don't want him to major in natural jewelry-making only to discover he can't make any money from it and has to abandon that path and get a real job. That was what his Mama did. I guess I was too difficult to offer real guidance to, so I didn't get much worthwhile guidance. I'm going to do things a little differently with him.
As an older parent, I really am thinking about his major in college. I don't have to wait until he's 9 and embarrassing the rest of the class with his mad multiplication skillz. If he does become a prodigy in something, I won't downplay it - I'll tell him, "You're the best. Run with it! Be the VERY best!"
If he's average in every way, I have a plan for that too. I'll tell him to work hard so he may rise above mediocrity with sheer determination. "If you find a way to make it fun, then you'll WANT to get things done."
I spend a lot of time each day exposing him to little things - a toy that spins, keys that jingle, food that squishes, water that's wet. I cheer when he tries to say a word that has a meaning, no matter how incomprehensible his attempt is. I dance with him. His daddy gives him playing cards and d20 dice to discover.
I wonder why parents don't continue this kind of intimate, hands-on learning in later years. Learning gets relegated to school. Why? Boys, especially, have trouble with book learning for the first several school years. Maybe if their parents gave them activity-based learning experiences when they're ten, same as we do when they' re one, they wouldn't get so frustrated in school. Maybe learning math at the gas station and ecology on the nature trail is just the antidote to male classroom restlessness. (Female too.) Right now I can play "how many different objects can you kick in the back yard" with the Cloud. Maybe in ten years we'll be playing, "how many different types of plants can you ID in the back yard."
I can't leave it to school to teach him everything he needs to know for life and career. Look how badly that approach worked on me. There's a reason why Harvard University admissions officers look as hard at an applicant's extracurricular activities as at his or her GPA.
Not that I'm expecting the Cloud to get into Harvard... but... I'm not ruling it out either. Just saying.
Cornell would be nice. Their ornithology and marine bio programs have strong reputations. The University of Rhode Island is also a center for studies in field biology. Many of the coastal studies and programs dealing with invasive species come from there.
If he decides to go to MA College of Art... well... we'll cross that bridge if we come to it.
As an older parent, I find this line of thinking normal and natural. Instead of devouring parenting books and looking over the shoulders of my fellow parents to see what they're doing right, I make up my own version of what's right. Conformity never led me to greatness. Even finding a different drummer to march to doesn't quite cut it. At my age, I believe it's best to make your own dang drum, and learn how to play it really well, and that's what I'm going to pass on to my kid. It also helps that I only have one child to focus on. If I had 4 or 5 or 7, I could spread out my ambitions for them amongst them all, and celebrate how unique and individual each of them all are. But with one child, my attentions are funneled. That can end up being a whole lot of pressure resting on his shoulders. But part of my lesson for him is to please himself, not other people. Not even Mama. The path to rising above mediocrity is to leave Mama behind in the dust. Don't worry about me, kiddo! Go chase your dreams! And choose your own music!
Fortunately for me, they don't make cutting-edge music these days like they did when I was a kid. There's nothing being produced today that will shock and disturb the parents, because the parents grew up listening to worse. The most angst-ridden high schoolers are now wearing Pink Floyd and Nirvana t-shirts - two of my favorite bands from my generation. (Pink Floyd (pure Pink Floyd, that is, with Roger Waters heading the band) actually predated me by a few years.) My generation invented punk rock, rap, and death metal! Nothing has come out since then that tops death metal. Maybe Finnish death metal, but those guys are all my age too.
I can at least draw from personal experience and advise the kiddo to be a gentleman at concerts: protect his girlfriend by standing between her and the mosh pit. But do they even have mosh pits anymore?
Alas, I fear my son's musical tastes will either be very, very retro or very, very tame. He'll be blaring a riff from "Smoke on the Water" on his @$$-kicking new electric guitar and his Mama will start singing along. Oh, how times have changed. Youth is no longer a key ingredient of 'cool'.
My generation's life experiences are hard to top, too. We can honestly say, "I've known people who lost their lives to AIDS or ruined their lives with drug addiction." Some of us can even say, "I saw my friends sliding downhill with their drug use, and it only strengthened my resolve not to make the same mistake." And we're not 'uphill both ways barefoot in the snow' kinds of people, spouting misfortunes that our kids fail to relate to. We grew up in prosperous times, when sexism and racism were at an all-time low. Aside from cell phones and the internet, our culture has not progressed in 3o years.
That's actually kind of scary - we're older parents, and yet we're NOT culturally obsolete. My mother was 23 when she had me, and she was most certainly culturally obsolete. Here I am, a parent for the first time at age thirty-never-you-mind, and I know my stuff. I've been there, done that, don't suggest you try it too kiddo. I know my way around the internet like a teenager, probably better - and I take the time to spell my words out, too.
I still refuse to get a cell phone, though. Every time I blink, new cell phones are old already. Cell phone generations come and go so quickly, the term 'cell' is inadvertently appropos.
Will any of this change in the next 15 years? Will culture jump-start forward again? Will some mass phenomenon come along that leaves us fogies scratching our heads? I don't think so. Not until we're too tired to keep learning and too old to care.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
However, it seems she has no eardrum in her left ear. Strange. How does an indoor cat with a low-risk lifestyle lose an eardrum?
Then again, how does she go blind suddenly without any head trauma? A tumor might explain that. She is a cat of many mysteries.
Thus, I apparently have a visually impaired cat who is deaf in one ear and has arthritis. And I haven't been so relieved since I learned that AwesomeCloud's delays were not innate.
Speaking of AwesomeCloud, the kiddo is walking like crazy - with assistance, but it's only a matter of time before he takes his first independent steps. He's babbling like it means something; he says "Goo" with a sincerity that belies its silliness. Also, "Doit doit doit." Serious stuff.
And he pretends to eat. He eats invisible morsels off my wrist, off box tops, off the edge of his stroller. Make-believe! My kid is doing make-believe! Whoa, awesome!
He likes Fatboy Slim and his eyes light up when I play it. Now he also likes Tommy Dorsey and Count Basie. He is a kid of diverse musical tastes. (Coincidentally, they match Mama's musical tastes.) We have yet to find out if he's a big Springsteen fan like his daddy.
He also eats more foods, and he's more eager to feed himself by hand. Last night he had Thai food at the mall. He enjoys shoveling the pad Thai noodles into his mouth. (Disclosure: they're not spicy. Thai food at the food court is like macaroni at Sbarro - it's not real ethnic.)
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Then I caught it, with more moderate symptoms such as a scratchy throat and a pile of used tissues (which I incinerated in the wood stove).
Unfortunately, I was unable to wash my hands between blowing my nose and handling the baby, because I was constantly doing both at all times. For much of the day I sprawled out on the living room floor and the kid had to play around me. He did not like this arrangement. He cried a lot. I occasionally comforted him, when I had the energy.
Then he took a 2-hour nap, and when his Daddy came home, there was more low-key playing, because Daddy was tired too.
Now Daddy has more symptoms and is feeling run-down and tired. I had a difficult start this morning, but I've bounced back already - we went to the gas station, post office, and then the mall, where everything was closed except Dunkin Donuts. Kiddo and I split a breakfast sandwich and saved our pumpkin donut for later. Then we walked aaaalllllll the way across the parking lot to Trader Joes, where they were giving out cornbread. Yum! We split a cornbread. Then we bought a cornbread mix, because it was yummy, and some eggs, then we ate our donut, and then we walked aaaaalllllll the way across the parking lot and through the mall and back to the car.
Got all that? Does reading about it make you feel sympathetically tired?
AwesomeCloud is out like a light now. I didn't give him elevensies, but his second breakfast was quite substantial what with all the cornbread and donuts and such, so I figured a bottle of Pediasure and a nap would satisfy him till late lunch.
I'm just waiting for him to come down with symptoms too. If he gets the sore throat, he'll avoid crying, just like I had to avoid talking for awhile yesterday. No sign of weak crying yet. Also, his nose isn't runny yet.
But I don't see how he could avoid it. He's been touching everything I've been touching, including food.
In other news, Trixie's health is not improving in spite of the multiple medicines she's on. Twice a day I have to grab her and throw her sideways on my lap (gently, albeit with her claws digging into my thighs) and drip three drops of eardrops in her left ear. It's very difficult. There's much hissing. I try to be quick, lest I miss my chance to get the drops in. The left side of her face is disgustingly greasy with all my near-misses, although I've tried to clean her up with a damp towel.
Now she's starting to use the Oriental rug as a litter box. So I will go now and roll it up and stick it in the corner, and then later I'll decide between a rug-cleaning service and a brand new rug. It wasn't an expensive rug. I got it at Ocean State Job Lot. I'm not dumb! With two special needs cats, you don't want to pay real money for a real Oriental rug when a cheapo one will do.
Friday, November 6, 2009
The blogger, who used IVF to conceive her children, read some New York Times articles about IVF, and then read a bunch of comments saying that instead of getting fertility treatments, infertile couples should all just adopt.
The commenters at NYT.com are notoriously toxic. They always have been. They're articulate, but that only makes it worse, because then the comments section becomes mobbed with smart people with disturbingly stupid opinions.
The blogger was justifiably angry. So what is her response?
Every time someone declares that infertile people should accept their lot in life and adopt, they should be required by law to adopt a child themselves. To put their money where their mouth is. Shouldn't be a problem, right? I hear it's a piece of cake.
And every time someone says that infertile people should not-just-plain-adopt, but special-needs-kids-from-foster-care-extra-special-bonus-just-adopt, they should have such a child deposited on their doorstep within, oh, let's say an hour. Sign here, and here, initial here, fingerprint here, notary seal here, aaaaand done. Congratulations! You're a parent! Hey, let us know how it goes. I'm sure you'll do a bang-up job. Really, how hard could it be?
And every time someone who's had no fertility problems of their own says it, someone with as many children as they'd like, conceived and delivered without difficulty, they get the full package. The adoption, the special needs and the adjustment issues, and a stiff electric shock where it'll do the most good. What? Oh, you don't like those repeated high-voltage jolts? Sounds like a lifestyle issue to me. I know you'd like for them to stop, but it's not a matter of life or death, sooooooo...
Yeah! Special needs adoptions as especially awful punishments! Excellent! In several years, my kid's going to be able to surf the internet himself and he'll get to read it too.
If not that particular post, then others. She isn't the first to strongly imply that special needs adopted children are the booby prizes of the parenting world. Or even the first to take her own outrage and pass it on to the next group.
Admittedly, she wasn't the one who inserted adopted children into the conversation. The commenters who insisted that adoption, an act of altruism, was better than fertility treatments, a waste of resources, did that. But hey! Once adopted children are mentioned, that makes them fair game!
I especially love how she upped the ante with 'special needs'. We should save the special needs children for the worst offenders. Because they are a special kind of punishment.
Okay, folks, please take note if you will: if you are offended by something you read on the internet, please make sure that your fiery, indignant response will not cause pain to anyone but the specific people you are angry at.
I can understand the sentiment of "I wish you misfortune!" It's time-honored. That's where curses come from.
However, not everything - or everyone - difficult is appropriate to offer up as a curse.
If I fail to pass my outrage onto the next emotionally vulnerable demographic, it doesn't mean I'm accepting the notion that a special needs adoption is the bottom of the parenthood barrel. It just means I'm nice. I don't have any moral objections to IVF - I don't think everyone should do it, but I'm a big fan of diversity and multiple options. I appreciate that IVF was available to me, in theory anyway, in case I wished to have a child by that route. I agree that no one should ever tell a parent that her route to parenthood was wrong or bad.
But the kids of all methods, conception and adoption inclusive, grow up to be people too.
Also, I'd like to add that electroshock therapy is commonly used as a rhetorical device, sometimes angrily, and sometimes with a humorous intent. People need to get a clue. Electroshock therapy is a very real and very serious course of treatment that has been terribly misused in the past, and is coming back into misuse in the present, and has been/is being the cause of much additional, unnecessary suffering to many already vulnerable people. It is not funny.
Thursday, November 5, 2009
Um. Okay, so, yeah, she's my mother.
Trixie: The vet found a mass in her left ear. It may be earwax, in which case there must be a raging infection underneath to cause her to tilt left and limp in pain. Or it might be a tumor, in which case the vet will need to take samples, CAT scans, and maybe X-rays to make a positive diagnosis.
She gave me antibiotic ear drops. If after a week the mass has not changed, and/or her symptoms have not alleviated, then the tumor possibility will look much more likely.
She almost definitely has arthritis on top of this, and she is most certainly partly or mostly blind.
You'll have to forgive me. Some pets are special above and beyond the general value of having pets. Trixie is a hard-luck cat. Her behavior is not always perfect. She destroys household objects sometimes, especially rugs. She pees on carpets and in suitcases and under beds. Not everyone would love this cat. But to me, she's one of the special ones. She's second only to Shadow, my childhood Maine coon (now deceased) who has now reached legendary status in my family for her many amazing qualities.
Trixie is amazing in her own way, too. And she's drop-dead gorgeous, startlingly so, considering the hard life she's led. (I mean, aside from having her every whim catered to after we adopted her.) Seeing her suffer like this, and tending to her in her time of need... well, my heart is taking a beating.
AwesomeCloud is doing great, though.
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Then we had a nice lunch that went on and on, with me scrambling to find one more thing to feed him, one more thing, until finally I decided the "full belly" endorphins were sleeping on the job. I picked him up and he got very upset that lunch was over. Very, very upset.
Funny. Merely 2 hours before, a plateful of eggs had filled him up enough to play "squeeze the nipple and dribble the milk all over the living room rug" instead of drinking.
I know kids play with their food, and I know their food-playing choices often make no sense. But that doesn't mean I have to like it.
So, screamy sobby baby went right to naptime. I held and rocked him for two Irish ballads, during which time he turned into yawny drowsy baby. I put him in the crib, a situation which utterly devastated him for 30 whole seconds. Now he's out like a rock.
And I don't know what to do with the next hour. Should I wash a bazillion dishes? Do yardwork? Answer the emails that have been sitting in my inbox for a week or so? Nap too? Work on my novel? Argh. I'm too tired to make decisions.
Okay, I sent the most important email: the one to the vet talking about Trixie's condition. I'm convinced she had a stroke. The vet is still considering arthritis. Trixie tested negative for a UTI. (Sorry for blaming you for that, Mom! It probably wasn't the Alley Cat cat food that made her sick after all.) She also tested negative for diabetes.
So... thank goodness for small blessings?
Also, I think she's lost her eyesight suddenly. Strokes can cause blindness, right?
She could have both a stroke and arthritis, certainly.
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
We did go grocery shopping and to the pharmacy, and then we went to the next town to buy a pair of overalls we found on Craigslist - brand new for $5! I need 10 more of them! So it wasn't a completely empty day.
AwesomeCloud is trying his hand at being mischievous. So far he isn't very good at it. Squeezing the nipple of his bottle to dribble juice on the rug, or tossing a book in the general direction of the cat, are the worst he can do.
Today when he tossed a handful of couscous over his shoulder, he found that I have very little patience for such things. I'll play "Mama fetch" with a toy for 5 or 10 minutes, but if it's food he's throwing, that food goes away.
At lunchtime today, I didn't have to go that far. My withering glare made him cry. And then he had to endure such caustic remarks as, "I'm less than sympathetic. You should have thought of that before you threw your food. Are you still crying? Wow, you sure cry a lot."
It's funny - when I remark that he's crying excessively, he attempts to pull himself together. I don't know if he has the faintest clue what I'm saying. Maybe something in my flat tone of voice suggests to him that his efforts are being wasted.
He has the occasional long-term crying jag, so it's not like his crying stamina is poor. And if I drop the attitude, sometimes he'll start being a pain again. I dunno.
Gah, I wish I weren't so tired. I'm wasting this perfectly good nap hour.
Sunday, November 1, 2009
It's a spider costume. All you can see are the eyes and teeth, but it also has little legs sticking out of the sides under his arms, and if you look at the whole thing, it's super-cute. I wish we had an excuse to use it again! I guess we'll just pass it on to the next family for next year.
Here he is playing with some toys after trick-or-treating. I was originally going to skip Halloween this year because he's so new to the family and I was afraid the holiday would be overwhelming. But he had a pretty good time. It was a low-effort event for him. He just sat in the stroller and occasionally had pumpkin bread popped into his mouth at the party. And then trick-or-treating was more relaxing stroller time while Daddy begged strangers for candy.
Ah yes, Daddy. Daddy had a costume too. Hmm...
Ah yes. There's Daddy. Amazingly, AwesomeSpide - I mean AwesomeCloud! - was not afraid of Rorschach (a dark superhero character from the book/movie The Watchmen).
My costume was a lab coat. I've been a mad scientist every year for 6 or 7 years, and this year the lab coat was the only piece of my old costume that I bothered searching for. Part of the problem is that I very rarely have a reason to dress up for Halloween. I'm not a frequenter of costume parties.