Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Bitter Kitty

I have heard people say that cats can be rather dim; that they exist solely to be petted and loved. These people do not know cats. At all.

Friends, if you listen to only one thing I say, let it be this singular truth: Fickle is the mind of the feline.

I mean, like, really, really fickle.

We have this cat, Anna. She is furry, and loving. And old. She is 15 1/2 years old, which sets all sorts of records for longevity of cat-life at our house. So we're in new territory here with her.

We have her on the Senior Plus sort of food, which is supposed to have all the goodies that older cats need to have all types of healthiness heaped upon them. And it's not cheap. Nope. This stuff is pricey. But hey, what are you gonna do, right?

So we put it out for her, every single day.

And she turns her nose up at it. Every single day.

She wants canned food.
She yowls when she doesn't get canned food.

I admit I've indulged her, figuring there is certain amount of entitlement that should be rewarded to a cat who has seen our household flip flop from Pet-Centric to Kid-Centric; from the evening brushing sessions on the couch, to continual attacks and tail-tugging by little ones; from the playful pursuit of a younger kitten chasing her, to the all out stampede of 4 feet in a full-on run in her direction. In this golden season of her life, if she wants canned food, she shall have canned food. Job well done, Kiddo.

Every morning I put a can out for her and she happily dives in.
Every morning, except today.

Today was one of those days where I had 4 million individual things to do, and less than 5 minutes to complete each one. Our day began early and was scheduled to be full. I had to hurry; I needed more time. Something had to be skipped for sanity's sake. I can only do so much.

So I skipped putting out the can of food. She yowled her disappointment at me when she didn't see me set it out. I looked at her and said, "Go eat your dry food. Can food later." And then I rushed out the door, but just as I was leaving I could almost swear to you that I saw her squint at me. Narrow her eyes in a look that clearly conveyed calculations were being made. Plots were being created. Retribution being mapped out.

But I had to leave. No time to worry about it. I'll deal with it late, I mentally declared.

Later is now, my friends.

After a full day of being gone, I returned home ready to get back into the school lessons we had prepared to work on. Everything was all laid out: pencil boxes, books, work pages. Everything was at the ready for our return, so we could just jump right into what needed done.

Perhaps you have a thought of where this tale is going; perchance the mention of an angry cat and set up table put you in the frame of mind of what took place. And you'd be half right.

I say "half" because despite the fact that the entire table was set and ready for school, the only damage done to anything was done solely on MY half. Mine alone.

Anna had jumped up and shredded this week's pages of my Lesson Plan Book. Ripped it up. Anywhere not chewed had tooth-stab wounds through it. She completely ripped out Monday's Language Arts sections, in fact. And Friday's History lesson will be, well, a mystery, for me until I go back and check the book again because she annihilated that box as well. To further her vengeance and drive her message home, she found my sheet of award stickers, which I give out for a Job Well Done, and somehow managed to get the sheet crumpled up into a ball riddled with tooth punctures.

Her message was clear: Job NOT Well Done for me.

Nope. Not well at all.

She didn't touch anything on the girls' side. Dan had papers out and she didn't touch those. Just my stuff. Me. Bullseye.

Touche, ma chat. Touche.

I've heard it said by others that cats are not thoughtful creatures.

Clearly, those who think that have never had a cat.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Too Fast

I know this isn't true for everyone, but I swear to you that before I had kids, I existed in this strange continuum whereby time marched by at very normal, very regal pace. Like slides lined up in a slide show, Holidays clicked in and out of focus; each one coming directly after the one before it. Seasons were marked by the inventory at the local retail stores; I noticed the changes from shorts to jeans, t-shirts to sweaters, fuzzy light up Christmas Tree socks to pale pink Bunny Ear headbands..and knew a new time was upon us. Nothing was too fast, nor too slow. It was the Baby Bear of Time: everything was just right.

That was before having kids. Before.

Time has since sped up. Quite a bit. It seems I never have a moment to settle into one day, week, month, season, or year, before we're wheeling out of that one and onto the next. Everything is a constant blur.

Case in point: my girls were born, like, yesterday. Yesterday. I kid you not. I was there; I remember this very well. A mother is just not going to forget that sort of thing, you know. So will someone explain to me, being that I have these two newborns and all, how it came to be that I just bid goodnight to two very much grown up girls? They are not at all the newborns I so very clearly remember them being- well, yesterday.

How did that happen?
WHEN did it happen?
Was I looking the other way and they shot up 48 inches and grew into very grown up little people who only whine on occasion?
Was I in the bathroom? Is that what happens when you have privacy in there? It doesn't happen very often you know; there is usually an audience of 2 applauding my efforts.

How do the lyrics go? "I don't remember growing older...when did they?" That's me. Right now.

<Gulp> Is it going to keep happening? Will they be getting married tomorrow?

We're starting 2nd grade next week. They're turning 8 in a few months. They're independent. They're growing up.

This is another moment where I must say how blessed I feel that I can say I've been here for everything. I've seen it. I may not have been able to fully focus on all of it, what with the manic high speed carousel of Time ride I've been on. But I've been here. I've seen them. I'm grateful.

So now I take a deep breath; it's time to get going once again. All ready? All set? Let's go.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

So Long Summer

Summer is riding off in the distance, waving farewell and whistling a tune as it trots merrily away.

Fall is gunning right for us, wearing all the vestments of Autumn as it charges our way: School. Shorter Days. Comfort Food. Foliage. Bonfires.

While I'm sad to see Summer receding into the distance, I think I'm ready for the changes of Fall. I've written about this before; I love Fall. (I do. I can't help it. I've tried to be a Spring girl......or even a Summer girl....but I keep getting hooked on Fall's gloriousness.) It could possibly be because I have a very short attention span which is generally soothed by the constantly changing environment of Fall: Colors! Wind! Cold! Hot! SNOW! (yes, I said it), Bare Trees! Sunshine! Gray Clouds!......possible all in one day, in our neck of the woods, thank you very much.

This Summer has been an adventure of many newthings for us this year. Caedance got an expander and has endured (quite marvelously and bravely) the nightly "Clicking" to widen it. This child has not uttered one negative word on the topic of her sore mouth. "Mother, I feel it working!" she will exclaim in the morning. Or "I do feel it, but that doesn't have to ruin my day." I seriously need to learn from her how to deal with life's unexpected donations--the ones I don't want very much. Her attitude is undefeatable.

The girls took swimming lessons. And succeeded. These were the children you heard screaming in the pool of the hotel. They were the ones clawing up the parents' necks when dipped in water at the water parks. At the age of 6. We held off until they were 7 to take swimming lessons, and then begged them to Please Please Please Get In The Water With Your Instructor And Please Don't Scream Please Please Please You Have To Learn This Please.
They got in the water. For all 6 lessons. And by George, they learned to paddle about. No screaming. No clawing. Just learning. Huge sigh of relief there.

Both girls have gained a large amount of Independence this summer too. Loosening the connection between them and venturing out in differing ways. They slept in different rooms for the first time ever. And didn't wake up crying. They spent time with one parent or grandparent without the other. And even managed to have fun without the other. Don't get me wrong, these two are still closer than close, but it's nice to see their individuality peeking through.

And so here I am, setting up lesson plans and getting everything ready for 2nd grade. Another school year is set to begin and I think we are each excited about it in our own way. Ready to get back to the routines that offer consistency and meaning.

So long, Summer. You've been great. See ya next year.

Hello, Fall. Welcome back. Let's do this thing.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Grandpa Joe

This week has been devoted to the beautiful patchwork quilt that is Family. Such a colorful and unique piece of art family is. People who are like you; surrounding you, at times annoying you (yes) and perhaps driving you crazy. But under all that, through every up and down you take with each other, there it is; that invisible string that ties you together. And you still love one another. Why? Because of that magic patchwork that keeps you firmly linked.

You may come from different fabrics, or be in a different patterns, but put us all together? My gosh, we're stunning. Intricate beauty that defies explaination. Held together with seams made strong by small, overlapping stitches. Every piece placed precisely. Purposed. Perfect.


Today a precious member of our family passed away. My husband's maternal grandfather, Joe.

Grandpa Joe.

Now here was a man who could light up a room, even in the darkest of moments. There was joy to his entire being. He loved life. He cherished his friends. He adored his family. Intensely. And you know those people who seemingly know no strangers? Here was one of them. This man went out of his way to make sure every single person in his vicinity felt comfortable. Welcomed. Respected. Every family needs people like that, don't you think?

When I met him, I was the new girl coming into a large and incredibly close knit family filled to the brim with love and laughter. At the time, the thought of finding my place in this beautiful work of art was daunting for me. Would they like me? Where could I fit in? I had so many doubts - until I met Joe Avsec. From the start, he welcomed me with open arms and a smile. I knew from those first tentative family gatherings that I had a place within. And that was a magical feeling.

When I married into the family, I had the honor of calling him Grandpa. And what a blessing he has been in my life. His laughter and stories, his thoughts and advice; I am honored to have them as memories.

My daughters have had the joy of calling him Great Grandpa, and he's been a huge presence in their lives. They loved playing at his house, seeing what little treasures Grandpa Joe might have for them (he always seemed to have some little toy waiting for them to play with, and he was always willing to let that toy come visit at our house); playing in his backyard pond, investigating tadpoles and catching the goldfish. You know, I'm not entirely sure how well the fish they "caught" fared after they were returned to their habitat, but he never stopped them from their exploration, and I think the girls adored him all the more for it.

Every single memory is precious. So very, very precious.

And I'm grateful for each and every single one of them. He will live on through them; for us and for the girls. The hotdogs and beans that I'll make for Dan from time to time, ONLY in a cast iron pan and ONLY with bacon grease. The potica I still make out of the Slovenian cookbook he gave me, linking me to the heritage of this family. The silly cat cards he'd mail to us. The way he was genuinely glad to be wherever he was, and with whoever he was with.

Families are filled with people who make our lives a little brighter, aren't they? The ones who rally around us, always cheering for us and pushing us forward with their words and encouragement. And the thing is, we know special they are in our lives. How bright they make us shine by sharing some of their light. But somehow, when they leave us, we're still left looking at that giant space and wondering in awe at the size of it anyway. As if we simply couldn't comprehend just how special that person was. Not completely. And we feel it keenly.

Thank you for your laughter and your love, Grandpa Joe. I know this isn't goodbye. Not really. Until we meet again.

P.S, every Potica I make is dedicated to you. Every single one.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


We just got back from spending some time with family. Glorious, glorius family. The immediate kind and the extended kind. The sorts you see daily to the ones you only see on holidays; the ones you talk to regularly to the ones who are names on your facebook site. Family.

No matter how close you are or how frequently you get together, there's always that tie that connects you. I love that about family. I love the way you can walk into a family gathering, even when it's filled with people you haven't seen in years, and feel almost as though are are walking into a conversation that has been suspended, picking up where you left off.

Family is the blanket that covers you.

It's the place you call home no matter where you may go.

Watching the kiddos get together at these extended gatherings is part of the joy. Cousins. 2nd cousins. Removed. Whatever. They're kids; they travel in a small world of ready made family and relationships. Every new person they meet is related to them in some way. "Hi! Let's go play!" And off they go, onward to hours of exploring, adventuring. Carefree, virtually tireless fun.

The start of memories.

There is something artfully unique about being a part of a family; whether you always get along or not. You're tied together, by that powerful and invisible gordian knot of coded history. Shared experiences, shared memories. No matter how much or how little time you spend together; or how often you check in or catch up, that knot is stronger than time itself, and infinitely more entwined.

I count myself grateful for the family I was born in to. And for the one I married in to a well. Two very nifty bunches of people, these.