Cat Challenged

Many many moons ago, when our first set of next door neighbors lived next door (we are now on neighbors #3 which may or may not have something to do with us) they asked me if I would feed their cats while they were in Hawaii.

I said yes because it’s not in my nature to turn down a request for help.  And I thought they meant “feed” the cats.  How hard can it be to walk next door and pour some food in a bowl?  But since I had not owned a cat since I was three, I didn’t understand the full implications — feed the cat is code for change the litter box.

So a day before they were to leave for Hawaii, they called me over for my cat-feeding training.  When she took me to the guest bath off the kitchen, I started to get the idea that maybe this could involve something more than pouring food into a bowl.

“This!” she said waving her hand Vanna-style towards a plastic washtub on the floor, “This is the litter box!” Then she proceeded to instruct me in the fine art of poop scooping.

Although this was not what I thought I had signed up for, I couldn’t exactly back out. I had been duped like a trusting two-year-old.

So about a day after they left, I went over to “feed” the cats.  They (the cats) ran out to greet me.  They were happy to see me and mewed and purred and affectionately rubbed up against me and serpentined between my legs as I tried to walk.  The litter box was not too terribly atrocious in my estimation, so I held my nose and scooped poo, poured some food in their bowl, patted them on their little kitty heads and went on my merry way.  This wasn’t going to be so bad, and bonus – I’ll get a star in my crown.

About a day after that I went back for my second visit.  This time the cats did not come out to greet me but rather cowered in dark corners and hissed at me as I walked past.  I went to the guest bath for the scooping portion of the visit and good glory, I couldn’t believe my eyes.  They had dumped over the litter box, shredded the rug and shower curtain, pee’d all over everything and had apparently made a clumsy attempt at using the toilet paper.  These were some mad cats.  Vindictive too.  Some words immediately sprung to mind, all of them four-letter.  So much for that star in my crown.

I cleaned it up as best I could and took the shower curtain and rug home to wash.  Here’s a tip. If a cat pee’s on something?  Throw it away.  Three washings later and the rug and curtain still smelled like the garbage dump from hell.

For the remainder of my active duty, I ran in and scooped and fed as fast as I could and then ran out before they shredded me.  I was afraid. Very afraid.  They were plotting against me, I could feel it in my bones.

That was about 10 years ago, and memories fade, so when my friend Jennifer asked me to feed her cat while her family went skiing over Christmas, I of course said yes. How hard can it be to feed a cat?

When she called me over to give me feeding instructions and walked me to the laundry room, I had a flashback.

“This!” she said waving her hand Vanna-style, “This is the litter box!”  This was no ordinary litter box. This was the Rolls Royce of litter boxes.  It cleaned itself automatically and had moving parts and sensors.  It was nicer than my car.  And it was idiot proof, or at least it was until I came along.  She said I shouldn’t need to do anything because the box does it all automatically, but if does need to be changed, do this and this and this and put in a tray and then do this.  And at that point, I sort of blanked out in the same way I do when someone starts talking about percentages and fractions and information that I don’t think I need.

So about a day later I went over to feed the cat.  The cat ran out to greet me, mewed, purred and walked between my legs.

On the second visit, the cat hid in a corner and hissed at me as I walked past.  And the Rolls Royce litter box seemed to be on the blink.  So I scooped and said four-letter words in my head and got out of there as fast as I could.

On the third visit, I noticed that when I went in that the door from the house to the garage was open.  No worries, I figured that it popped open when I opened the garage door as sometimes happens at our house.

So I go in and call for the cat, scoop and feed. The cat makes no appearance, but I figure she hates my guts and can’t stand the sight of me. And Jennifer said that she sometimes hides, so I left it at that and went home.

About two hours later, this horrifying thought occurs to me:  What if the door to the garage popped open when I left on the second visit and the cat was not hiding in the house but was in the garage when I arrived?  Since I left the garage door OPEN when I was calling/feeding/scooping, perhaps the cat availed herself of the opportunity to escape the hell that is having me feed her and scoop her poop.

And that horrifying thought was followed by this even more horrifying thought:  I don’t really know what Jennifer’s cat looks like.  Being able to identify Jennifer’s cat was one of those things that fell into the category of “stuff I don’t really need to know”.

And then even more horrifying thoughts followed:  How am I going to find a cat that I can’t identify? What if I find a cat slinking around Jennifer’s house and I force it inside and it’s not even her cat?   And then she comes home to a new cat?

So I go back over to Jennifer’s house to find the cat.  She has most of the doors closed off, so if it is there, it can only be in a few places.  I call and call and call for the cat. I search and search and search every possible place for the cat.  But NO CAT.  So I went home distraught over the fact that my friendship with Jennifer has ended.

As I sat at my desk, trying to order the horrifying thoughts and figure out how I am going to tell Jennifer that I lost her cat, I get an email from her saying how her girls were crying because they really miss the cat.  I had a problem.  A big problem.  And so I did what I always do when I have a problem, I turn to the ultimate problem solver – AD.

AD takes command and control of the situation and launches Operation Find The Cat.  He orders Sean and me to go with him back to Jennifer’s house for a search and rescue.  First we do a reconnaissance of the property, even though we have no idea what the cat looks like.  Our plan is to capture all the cats we can find and then we’ll line them all up and figure out which one is most likely to be Jennifer’s cat.  No cats were found on or near the exterior of the property, so we then systematically search the garage and the inside of the house.

Finally, after 30 minutes of calling and searching, hand-wringing and brow-beating, Sean finds the stupid cat hiding behind the curtains in the guest room.  The cat smirks at me and hisses.  I stick my tongue out at the cat and we leave. I breathe a sigh of relief.  My friendship with Jennifer has been saved.  At least until she reads this.

So while I am perfectly capable of watching your kid while you are gone, please do not ask me to “feed your cat.”

How To Market Pantyhose

So a Sunday or two back, because it was cold, I pulled on a pair of tights to wear with a wool skirt.  I normally wear pants to church when it’s cold.  And by pants I mean slacks, not jeans.  I am not a wear-jeans-to-church kind of gal, but if you are that’s okay, not that there’s anything wrong with it….  But for some reason I thought I would wear a skirt even though it was near freezing.

Sidebar:  Sean really likes it when I wear a skirt or a dress, perhaps because it is so seldom.  I have a few strapless sparkly cocktail dresses left over from back in the day and he’ll often pull one of those out and suggest I wear it to church.  One time in pre-K, for a Mother’s Day project, he was supposed to draw a picture of me and then write a sentence about me.  His sentence was “My mom has a lot of fancy skirts.”  I have one fancy-ish skirt.

Yet Another Sidebar: Okay, here’s a new trend I have observed that puzzles me – bare legs all the time, even when it is seriously cold outside.  In the summer when it’s warm, I like to wear a skirt with sandals.  That makes sense.  But when it is below, say 75?  I do NOT want the icy wind howling up the antique gams.  Not only because it’s uncomfortably cold but because blue goose-bumpy legs are not attractive.  But then again, I was a young gal in the 70’s and 80’s and owned approximately 3,825 pairs of L’eggs.  I am a product of the panty-hose generation.  Even if I had really great legs, which I do not, I would not go bare-legged with spike heels and a pencil skirt in January.

So, on this particular cold Sunday, as we were heading out the door for church — me in my plaid wool skirt, turtle neck, Mary Janes and black tights (can’t you just picture the sexiness?)  Sean is walking behind me and makes a funny little cat-call whistle sound – woot-WOOoooh! – (because he can’t actually whistle) and says, “Mom! I reeeeally like those high heel socks!”

And I chuckled because high heel socks sounds so much more sexy than control-top tights.

Perhaps that’s how we could bring back pantyhose  – we could call them high heel socks.


“He’s cuter than he used to be.”

This was a comment that I overheard recently at a family gathering. When I realized the speaker was referring to my son, I laughed involuntarily. Not a belly laugh, but a sniff of disbelief as though I were trying to expel a gnat from my nose. Cuter than he used to be! Absurd.

Her words seeped into the spongy part of my brain that processes and analyzes. I was surprised when I started to feel a little indignant. What exactly did she mean by that? That Sean wasn’t cute to start with but was just now approaching entry level cute? She was obviously unaware that the nurse in the delivery room had pronounced him “too cute” at birth. Too cute — too, as in unbearably cute, a level of cuteness that could not be tolerated, criminally cute. A professional nurse would not lie about something as serious as that.

It was the first time that it had ever occurred to me that there might be someone on the earth who didn’t see Sean as I do – that someone might actually think that he is not cute, but just average, just so-so. I was astonished.

As conversations about cousins, weather and jobs rose and fell and floated around the room, I held the expression of someone who was listening intently. I nodded and said things like “Is that right? You don’t say” all while diagramming those six words in my head. Cuter than he used to be.

What if she were right? What if I was mistaken and Sean wasn’t catalogue cover cute? I kneaded this idea like a cat atop a velvet pillow. Silently, purposefully, obsessively pushing, pushing. Would it be so bad if my kid wasn’t cute or would it just be bad that I was so blind?

As I pondered these things, I recalled that it was just the other day that Antique Daddy and I were looking through some early photos of Sean and we both agreed, and even laughed about how deluded we were. We didn’t remember him looking so goofy. We didn’t remember that his head looked like a big bald happy toothless bowling ball attached to drunken rag doll body. We thought he was too cute.  And in our eyes,  he was too cute – so stunningly and unbearably cute that we could do little else but sit around and look at him and sigh.

It turns out that he is cuter than he used to be. And I am even more blindly in love with him than I used to be.

* * * *

This post was originally published in June of 2006.  Every season Sean is cuter than he used to be and his daddy and I are astonished at how much more in love with this child we are than we used to be. We didn’t think it was possible.

The Secrets Of Motherhood

A parenting magazine that I sometimes read recently ran the headline, “The Secrets of Motherhood.”

And honestly, that kind of headline makes me roll my eyes.  Because really, after several thousand years of recorded history, am I supposed to believe that women are just now  revealing the secrets of motherhood? That we’ve been able to keep those secrets under our collective hat all this time?  I don’t buy it.  I know better.  Women like to share. Women like to share in a way that makes men queasy. There are no secrets among the motherhood.

For example:

Woman A sees Woman B for the first time ever at a local playground. They share a park bench as they watch their children play.  Woman A turns to Woman B and compliments her shoes.  Woman B repays the compliment by telling Woman A her birth story in complete and graphic detail from the conception through the delivery of the placenta. Woman A reciprocates by telling Woman B that she pooped during the delivery. Woman B then says, “I like your shoes too.”

See? There are NO secrets in motherhood, all is known, revealed, discussed and blogged.  And then commented upon.

And if the secrets of motherhood were somehow going to be revealed after 6,000 years, I’m sure they would be revealed to Oprah first.

How Parenting Is Like Golf

In my previous life, I played golf three or four times a week. I love golf. I even love to watch it on television.  In fact, before I met Antique Daddy, I wouldn’t even consider dating someone who didn’t play golf.  It was on my non-negotiable list.  We played quite a bit until Sean came along and I hope that one day Sean will take it up and we will play as a family because the family that golfs together, well, they spend a lot of time together.

On Twitter the other day I saw that my friend, the author Jill Shalvis, asked the rhetorical question, “Why do I have children?”  Actually, she said it more like this:  WHY DO I HAVE CHILDREN?  If we are honest with ourselves,  we all feel that way at one time or another.  There are just some days when you want to throw your kiddo in the lake, just like a big bag of golf clubs and say, “I quit!” and then stomp off to the club house for drinks and nachos.

But in parenting, there is no club house. There’s just another day. And if you throw your kid in the lake, chances are they would just swim out and keep pulling on your sleeve and talking in that Alvin the Chipmunk voice.

Where was I?

Yes, how parenting is like golf.

So on Twitter the other day, in response to her question, I said to Jill that parenting is like golf.  And that was it. Which makes no sense. I’m like some geekzoid girl who walks up to the cutest guy at the party and just blurts out some random fact and then I shove my hands under my armpits.  So here then, in this space where I am afforded more than 140 characters, let me tell you how parenting is like golf.

Clothing should be comfortable. Matching is optional.

It is a darn expensive hobby.

It takes up a lot of time.

No cheerleaders.

A lot of people do it, but not that many do it well.

Those who don’t do it, think it’s boring. It’s not.

It’s not as easy as it looks.

Like dancing, you can look really silly while doing it.

It will make you cuss. Even if you don’t.

Everyone has advice on how you can do it better.

Aspire for par.

It’s all about patience and discipline and finesse – not strength.

It will make your back hurt.

It takes balls.

There are lots of books and videos promising to make you an expert. They won’t.

Sometimes the harder you try the worse it gets – relax.

Wear sunscreen. ( Just thought I’d throw that one in.)

A bad day of parenting is better than a good day of not parenting.

Big Is Beautiful

Yesterday, Sean and I were playing in his room on the floor.  I was laying on my side and he was crawling back and forth across me.

At one point, he playfully karate chopped my side from stem to stern and announced, “Mom, you look like the Great Wall of China! I could see you from outerspace!”

I’m sure that in some culture, somewhere, that was a compliment.

Photo Temporarily Unavailable

Update: For those who have asked, there is no update.  We had two rounds of bloodwork on Tuesday, fasting and non-fasting.  (He is still at-home testing really high for sugar in his urine but seems to feel OK.)  We expected we would hear something at least by the end of the day yesterday. We finally called in the late afternoon and they said it could even be Monday. So we wait.  Ugh.  Thank you all for your prayers and your expressions of concern.  It has made all the difference.