Bellissima

I’ve dreamed all week of my old cat, Bella.  Ten years ago my sister-in-law and I decided to each take a kitten from a litter that had been born near where SIL lived.  Though my SIL took one home, at the last minute the owner decided that I couldn’t have one, and I was supremely disappointed.  (SIL already had a dog – I had no pets, and thus the kitten would be “too lonely” in my house.  Or something.)  SIL, who had gotten me onboard with Project Adopt Kitten and felt bad about the whole thing, went to Pet Smart and selected a tiny shelter cat for me instead, and surprised us with her in September 2005.  She was orange and black and white, and super tiny – probably taken from her mother too soon.  After much debate I named her Bella Clementine, and for three years she was my sweet only baby.  My sister lived with me at the time, and loved on Bella as much as I did.  She was a good kitten aunt.

Then I got married, sister moved out, and some human babies came along, rather quicker than we’d intended, as did a wearisome corgi who just wore Bella out.  She hardly got any affection because he would chase her off.  She got fat, she ate my plants, she scratched up all of my linens and furniture.  I’d never in a million years have sent her to a shelter – better our Corgi House of Torture than that – but we did start looking to rehome her if possible, to a place that could give her more than I had to give.  We only had two little boys at the time, but two tiny boys was enough boys to completely drain all of my energy and capacity for dependents.  Let alone three.  (PS IF ANYONE WANTS A BOSSY CORGI, HINT HINT.)

When we moved to Alabama, my sister agreed to take her for a while, to spare the cat the trial of the move and homelessness we experienced for several months.  She never came back.  It was for the best.  My sister and her husband got along swimmingly with the cat, who lost weight, stopped destroying things, and flourished in their care.  She got a little spoiled, and they got to do some spoiling.  She lived the life of Riley.

They put her down on Friday night.  Schmitten was diagnosed with cancer and deteriorated with alarming quickness.  They tried a treatment, and it was able to give her a last couple of nights at home.  But nothing could stop the downhill slide, and kitten was clearly suffering.  So they did what loving families do in these situations, and they carried her to an animal hospital and held her close as she passed away, assisted by the loving hands of a caring vet.   They are understandably wrecked.

She has been theirs for a long time, and so I have less claim to sadness.  Nevertheless, I am wistful.  Bella was a lot of things to me, and though she’d exited my daily life three years ago, it made me happy that she was doing so well in her new home.  I feel like I did right by her, both when she was mine and when I set her up in a new happy place that better met her needs.  I feel like my sister and her husband did right by her, too, and in all things through her years of health and her days of sickness, they made the best choices to give her a glorious and love-filled last three years.  I’m glad my SIL picked her out all those years ago.  I’m sorry my sister is suffering her loss so deeply, but also glad she had the opportunity to experience the depth of that love, even though it hurts her now.  I like thinking about Bella, released from pain and miaowing her rickety, pathetic meow (she never had a good meow) in a catnip field in whatever heaven is, watching down on all of us humans who shepherded her through her life and death.

Sweet Bella Clementine.  All our love goes with you, good girl, now and forever.

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Brighter Mood

The mood today is brighter.  It’s been a good week for the two oldest boys.  Craig, on the other hand, has had a terrible week – copious drool + complete personality change + waking up again at night have us convinced that the two year molars are making an early appearance.  He’s been an absolute nightmare – basically crying and furious the whole time he’s awake.  Our sweet baby is back today, though, for how long we don’t dare guess.

Yesterday, to celebrate the boys’ successful completion of their first week of school, we drove about a half hour to a pretty nice municipal pool, complete with waterslides, diving board, and snack bar.  It was one of the hottest days we’ve had in a while, the full sun beating down, and swimming really hit the spot.  We swam, rode waterslides, enjoyed popsicles from the snack bar.  On the way home we grabbed hot dogs from a small local business, and then the boys drew pictures and played together while their father and I mowed the lawn/did dishes/laundry/vacuumed/etc.  Though I never quite made it to the grocery and our cupboards were bare, we had enough to make a delicious chicken curry for dinner, and then I took the big boys to a movie in the park while the Professor stayed home and wrestled our Beast Toddler into bed.  I spread out a giant beach towel on the grass for the boys and sat myself in a camp chair to watch the film, but both boys wanted to sit in my lap.  I let them.  Jack’s getting way too heavy for this, but as long as he wants to do it I’m going to suffer and let him squash me.  It was hot hot hot.  Eventually I kicked them back to the towel, and Liam fell deeply asleep.  I finally got them in bed close to 10pm, Liam still sound asleep from beach towel to carseat to bed.  A late night, a last gasp of summer.

This morning I am home working a bit, while the Professor has taken the baby to church.  The boys are watching Dino Trucks, some Netflix original Transformers/Bob the Builder/Dinosaur Train mashup.  I’ve made a meal plan (see below), and grocery list.  The dishwasher is running, as is the laundry machine.  The house is in order.  I feel a little peace.  I hope it sticks.

Below, our week’s meals.  We do Blue Apron on occasion – it’s a definite indulgence, as it costs about as much as a family meal out at a decent restaurant, and I’m doing all the work!  But it is fun, once every 4-6 weeks, to try a new wacky meal with fresh, interesting ingredients that I can’t get at the local grocery.  It keeps it interesting.  No Blue Apron this week – instead, I’m making the following:

  • Sunday: sweet potato and Gruyere turnovers
  • Monday: seared fish, red potatoes and green beans
  • Tuesday: French lentil soup, apples, and cheese
  • Wednesday: Box macaroni and cheese with frozen veg and a can of tuna mixed in (Professor will not be home for this one – this is his least favorite meal!)
  • Thursday: Chicken gumbo
  • Friday: Turkey sloppy joes with potato salad

Happy Sunday, folks.  Here’s to the week ahead.

 

 

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Summer’s Out for School

Summer is over, and I am a bit blue about it. I was privileged to enjoy a lazy week off with the children, which was restorative, but for two reasons that vacay mojo has not extended into my everyday worklife in the way I’d hoped. First, everyone got a stomach bug right there at the end of the break. This has happened multiple times, almost to the point where I expect it – the Professor and I come home from an exceedingly rare night or two off from kid duty (this happens maybe twice a year, at best) feeling fresh and ready to take on the routine once more. Only instead of the routine, we are faced with a nightmare back-to-work-and-also-stay-up-all-night-with-puking-child scenario. On this particular occasion of Vacation-Ruination, we had to juggle taking days off work as each child took on the stomach bug in turn (instead of all at once). Thus did the vomitous illness spread itself out over almost a full week, a full week that included rinsing pukey sheets in the tub and then baling out the vomit-water when the damn bathtub drain got clogged with dog hair; sprinkling baking soda over mattresses and vacuuming it up; cleaning up a waterfall of grossness off the bunk-bed ladder (our oldest missed the bowl by at least a foot, and I don’t know how); scrubbing it out of rugs and clothes and comforters and, ultimately, the washing machine. Handling that mess + back-to-school week (with all its various “Meet the Teacher” nights and last minute school-item purchases) + back-to-work after a week off was chaos. CHA. OS.  The Professor and I had appeared to escape unscathed, until he went down with the bug a full week later.  It could be me next – I’m still not in the clear.

I’m also blue for other, non-bloggable reasons. There is no juicy secret here – just general malaise about various issues that I prefer to keep on the D.L. (not family, not husband, not children, not illness). There are minor but real problems I’m eager to solve, but I feel paralyzed and unable to solve them. I’ve been working on solutions for about 6 months, with no real progress. It’s a drain to morale. I need to bounce back. This book (mentioned previously in this space) is actually motivating me – the heroine of this thriller is, to put it brutally, unkillable. She’s my inspiration. I need to be more unkillable. I’m down, but not out.

I hate writing foot-draggy, vague, crummy posts, but sometimes you have to get it out there to break the writer’s block barrier. The autumn slant to the August light outside is a harbinger of the shorter days to come – another reason for mild panic, as I know how I get in the height of the season of short winter days. The Professor is about to start his weekly out-of-state commute again.

I have a sister-wedding and a sister-baby (two different sisters, FYI) to look forward to, and I’m excited about those things.  Football season is on its way.  I want to write about the week off, and the tons of nothing that we did (plus one big something – a 13.6 mile hike on the Appalachian Trail!), and the friends we saw. I have snippets and drafts here and there – I’ll put them together. I miss my space here. I’ll be back soon.

Posted in Categorizing Things is Overrated | 1 Comment

Break

The last time I unplugged entirely for any extended period of time was over three years ago, when I went to Rio de Janeiro with my law school moot court team. I was completely without internet or phone for almost a week. Internet cafes were pricy and crowded, we did not pay for my flip phone to get international service, and my hostel’s one complimentary computer kiosk with internet was extremely slow, usually occupied, and had a whole bunch of keyboard keys for random Portuguese symbols in the place of the usual English punctuation.  (I just re-read my posts about that trip – if you’d like to, here they are.  Not too long, mostly bullet points and pictures.  Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4. Part 5.

For about a week, I was no longer subject to the tyranny of constant interruption. It took me a distressingly long time to quit checking my phone for texts or missed calls, but eventually that reward-feedback loop ceased. Time smoothed out. My mind, released from the metaphorical chains of constant phone monitoring, became alive with ideas and connections. Although deeply homesick for my boys at first, eventually I settled into the blisteringly hot, dirty, exciting, over-stimulating city and really dug in to a minute-by-minute experience. My husband and I did not speak or text once, although he wrote supportive emails from across the ocean. I read them at my leisure, at the hostel communal computer, when I had purposefully blocked out the time to do so (and not as soon as they arrived). Somehow, our marriage survived this 5-day communication blackout, as did my law school career, my children, and my friendships. The world did not fall apart in my absence. I have longed, since then, to regularly un-plug – a difficult thing for a law firm associate. But I’m about to do it at last!  I’m taking a week off, and going backpacking for part of it. I literally will be unreachable for a while, lost among the trees. I AM SO EXCITED. This is so healthy. I wish I could leave now.

Daily life with cell phones is a bit like running a marathon through heavy highway traffic – we are trying to accomplish something difficult which requires focus, while always on high alert for that next communication, always dodging and weaving, always being forced to confront that oncoming car the very second it appears on the horizon. We are buffeted by emergencies beyond our control, constantly interrupted. And unfortunately, while some of those emergencies are actually emergency-ish – in that our immediate attention is needed – most of them are not. There’s no way, right now, to screen out the “this needs attention now” stuff from the “you can get to this whenever” stuff. I actually think this will level out. This technology is so new – the people using it are new to it. We have not yet developed social constructs, separate streams of communication, or apps, or whatever, to help us manage this problem because it’s such a new problem that nobody gets the scale of it just yet, or the urgent need for a solution. We’ll get there. Simply removing all notifications from my phone has helped a lot already, and automatic email filters also helps. But until we get this beast under control, I can feel my brain chemistry wigging out with each surreptitious click/swipe/enter password/check if something SHINY AND NEW is here.

Back in the day, life without cell phones could be highly inconvenient and sometimes isolating. (Example – when I was in Rio, I planned to go to Sugar Loaf Mountain with some friends in a different room, but ended up going alone because we could never find each other. I survived and it was a cool day, but I would have been safer and less anxious with my Spanish- speaking friends.) I dig tech and its ability to form and foster human connection, but we must get ourselves to a place where life with cell phones is not so crazy and addictive. We have got to get to where we are permitted by work and culture to interact with them on our terms, and not constantly “on-leash” day in and day out.

On my last day in Brazil, I sat on the beach with a book for hours. I read “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” and bought a rainbow-colored sundress from a beach vendor, who forced me, as part of the price of my purchase, to learn how to say umbrella in Portuguese.

It was a good day.

Posted in Sometimes I Get Hepped Up and Think I Know a Thing or Two, Travel | Leave a comment

The Littlest

This summer I have some potted flowers on the porch.  In the dog days of July and August down here in the South, these little beauties need watered twice a day.  Craig, my watering can buddy, ‘helps’ me with this task before and after work.  I step down the stairs and head to the spigot on the side of the house, and he meanwhile lays on his tummy about 20 feet away from the top of the stairs and starts scooching backwards.  I love that he has learned to go downstairs backwards on his tummy, and it always makes me giggle that he starts his backwards slide so far away from the actual stairs.

By the time he actually gets himself down, I have already filled the watering can and come back around to greet him at the base of the front stairs.  He watches me pour the water and we chat about how plants need water and soil and sunlight.  Before I can stop him he grabs a handful of blooms and crushes them, then lets the bits of petal fall through his fingers to the ground.  I scold and brush off his hands, then carry him up the stairs to water the pots by the door.  He strides around importantly, garbling baby nonsense and getting down in a crouch to get a closer look, dimpled hands on chubby knees, a discerning furrow in his baby brow.  He rips a leaf, holds it to his face, crumples it up and smooths it out and shows it to me.  I try not to wince at the daily rending of my poor plants’ delicate bits, and instead oooh and aaaah in wonder.

When we have finished, we tuck the watering can behind a rocking chair, and then I open the front door.  The threshold is a little ridge of metal and rubber about 2 cm above floor level.   He used to need my helping hand to navigate this obstacle, but now he just grabs the door frame, then slowly slowly lifts his foot (way higher than necessary) and steps over it and into the house, trailing bits of leaf litter and petal in his wake.  Literally sprinkling flower dust wherever he goes.

************

“Booh!” he shouts assertively, and hands you a book.  You have read this book fifteen times today already.  He swings his arms with excitement, then turns around and backs up slowly into your lap.  He smiles, absolutely thrilled to read “The Monster At The End Of This Book” for the hundredth time.  Inside you roll your eyes and scream “I. CAN’T. READ. THIS. AGAIN.” but you read it, again, and he flips the pages and bounces in barely-controlled excitement.  You have every word memorized, and marvel at how something a simple as reading a book can be both torturous and delightful.  Sigh.  For him it is all delight, though, and so you do what all parents do, and delight him though the mind-numbing repetition steals a tiny piece of your sanity.

Before you even finish, he is looking around, ready to grab the next book.  Sometimes you read three in a row and then he hands you the first one again, and you read all three again.  He loves it so much.  How can he loves this so much – the same thing over and over again. He snuggles back into you, you are cheek to cheek, and you steal sidelong glances at him as you read.  So much baby fat.  The dimpled elbows, the rubber band wrists.  You run your fingers up and down his baby smooth skin, and say “I, lovable furry old Grover am the MONSTER at the end of this book,” and watch him giggle at how terribly silly that silly old monster is.  What a delight he is.  What a burdensome, exhausting, absolute delight.

Posted in Categorizing Things is Overrated, Tex | 1 Comment