Sometimes Life is not Fun

Back in October we got a new puppy. He was sweet and cuddly and we all loved him. He got along well with our other pets and seemed to love all the attention from the kids. We quickly discovered that he was deaf. Ok. Well, we can overcome that. We did some research. Started trying to teach him hand signals. 

The only problem with this puppy was that he bit the kids sometimes. Well, he’s a puppy. Puppies do that. His breed is known for being nippy. We worked with the kids more about respecting his space, not bothering him when he was asleep, not teasing him in any way. 

And then he bit two of our kids really badly. Ok. Step back. Reassess. Maybe this puppy is not going to work out after all. My husband started asking around if anyone was interested in rehoming him. No takers. I didn’t want to rehome him, he saw us as his family. 

Then he started attacking anyone that came close to our yard. Not good. My kids have neighborhood friends who like to come over and play. We started having to be hyper-vigilant about the dog and anyone who wasn’t in our family. I looked up on the internet how to deal with aggressive dogs. There are a lot of good training programs out there. They all cost a lot more money than I have available. I called our vet, she said not to keep him. If he’s having this problem now, it isn’t going to get better. But, maybe we weren’t reading the situation correctly? Surely we couldn’t just give up on him? 

Then at the end of last week he bit one of my kids in the face. Completely unprovoked. I saw the whole thing. Child was innocent. Ok. What do we do???? A couple days later a relative who has spent lots of time with the puppy, in and out of our house, came to visit. The dog bolted out our door and attacked them, bit them, hurt them. 

Yesterday I called our local shelter and they said that they do have a program for aggressive dogs. We would have to surrender him and they would keep him isolated and then have a professional behavior specialist work with him until he was adoptable. I had to tell the kids and then take him to the shelter and leave him there. 

I left him in his cage and then walked out, got into my car, and sobbed my heart out. 

I hate it. 

I came home, took the kids away from the house for the day. While we were gone my husband removed the dog kennel from the hall. 

This morning the house feels empty and quiet without all his pent up energy wiggling around. My dog Todd looks sad. The kids asked to see pictures of him before they went to school. 

Sometimes life is not fun. 

My Day so far…

5 am My day started when the three year old climbed into my bed. I heard him come in the room and sat up, Watch out for your sister! He was about to come to my side of the bed to climb in, but another child had come in the night and settled with a blanket on the floor by my bed. There was also a child asleep in my armchair. Good grief. The three year old climbed over the sleeping child and cuddled up with me. I dozed a bit, but at the back of my mind was the knowledge that my alarm would be going off soon and I would have to jump out of bed and across the room to turn it off as fast as possible so it didn’t wake up the three sleeping kids. 

7:45am. All the kids (minus two teenagers) are up, have eaten some breakfast and are logging on to their computers for their morning meetings. I sit by the six year old to help her stay focused. The homeschooling 7th grader is doing his own thing and the six year old homeschooler is playing till I have time for him. 

8:30am I leave kids doing school or taking a break, load the cat into a cat carrier and drive her one block to the vet where she will be getting fixed today. I’m supposed to sit in the parking lot and call the phone number of the vet, then they will come out to me when they are ready. Their phone line is busy. It takes me 40 minutes to get hold of the vet. They come get the cat, I have to pick her up this afternoon. 

9:10am I was planning on going home, but now it’s time to swing by the elementary school and pick up free school lunches. I call home and let the now-awake teenagers know what’s going on. 

9:30am Back home. I unload the lunches and then try to help the two six year olds do their school while I am also trying to put the cold food from the lunches into the fridge. I go back and forth. Help one child finish an assignment, send them on a five minute break, turn and help the other child with an assignment, and back and forth we go. Yelling at the three year old every once in a while to go play upstairs where he won’t be bothering people. 

11am, most of the kids are done with their morning assignments. I call the high school to figure out how to get the paperwork we need for my daughters to go take their written driving tests on Friday. The secretary says we need to come in and fill out paperwork. I yell at the teens to go and get in the car so we can get this done. 

11:15 am. I’m sitting in the car waiting for my teenagers inside the highschool. I open up an email from last week where my oldest daughter sent me a form that needed to be filled out for her FAFSA for college. I had forgotten to look at it last week. I find the email, download the link. Take pictures of the form, crop and edit the pictures. Open my adobe app, convert the pictures into pdf and get ready to start filling them out. I read all the questions carefully. Hmmm. I am not needed to fill this out. It doesn’t require my signature. I can just tell my daughter the answers over the phone. Check this off my list. 

11:30 Home again. Everyone is eating lunch. I get a text message. Don’t forget 6 yr old has a meeting at 1:15! Ok. Same child still has 2 assignments to finish, has to do a Spanish class at 12:30 and attend a meeting at 2:15. Got it. I set an alarm on my phone to remind me of all these things. The kids who are finished with their assignments are asking for their 20 minutes reward-computer-time. I set another timer to keep track of their computer play time. 

I still need to fold a week’s worth of laundry, get kids to do their chores, and figure out what I’m making for supper. And pick up the cat. And take kids to youth group tonight. And do advent. And read a book to the poor ignored 3 yr old. And keep the fire going in the fireplace. And let the dogs in and out of the house multiple times. And make sure all the kids actually DID finish all their school work. 

And instead of doing all that, I am decompressing by writing about my day. 

I think my brain is going to explode.

Two more days till Christmas break.

Fall Nights

It’s been a good day. A day to notice little things. 

This evening I heated up some soup for my supper. On Sundays I make a big noontime meal and then the rest of the day everyone fends for themselves (Ok, we help the three year old out, but that’s about it). I try to have sandwich makings or bagels or leftovers or something simple people can snack on. Today I heated up the homemade chicken soup which is more like chicken stew, it’s so thick, and two of my girls joined me. We got out the pretty colored bowls of mismatched shapes and sizes that always cheer me up. Sat at the big wooden table my husband made. 

After eating we moved back to the living room, the center of the home in winter time. My teen was playing the part of dj, selecting music off her playlists for us while she read her book. 

Some kids were gathered around the coffee table, having an interesting debate about how to draw animals. 

Another child was sitting on the couch with the dog, also reading her book. The puppy sleeping on the floor close by. 

Another child crawled into my lap and after a couple minutes of rocking in the old chair, she was out. I sat there holding her, enjoying my domain. 

Right now life feels a little crazy. Holiday plans are getting shifted, age-long traditions are being paused. Our country still doesn’t feel stable. I try to avoid thinking about the outside world as it seems out of control and bewildering. 

And so, it feels like a gift, to be able to just sit and see my immediate space. My home. The solidness of family. To feel the peace around me. Belonging. Purpose. Mission, as we try to raise these kids to adulthood. 

As we head into Thanksgiving this week, I’ll get started with the thankfulness now. I am thankful for fall nights, in my home, with my family. 

Puppy Emergencies

Yesterday I was in my room with my four youngest children. The puppy walked into the room and he was breathing funny, sounded wheezy. And then he started coughing and acting like he was trying to cough up something in his throat. This puppy was choking. I told the kids to go get the fourteen year old and official owner of the puppy since I was probably going to need some help. Then I pried the puppy’s mouth open and did a finger sweep, trying to see if I could feel anything. I couldn’t. The puppy continued to wheeze. I grabbed my phone and called our vet who is literally half a block from my house. They didn’t answer the phone, even though the webpage said they were open. I hung up and tried again. Still no response. I remembered that there was another animal clinic a couple miles away, I had no idea if they handled emergencies, so I tried to call them. Again, no answer, just lots of pre-recorded messages. 

Suddenly Ruth started yelling for me, her voice panicked. I ran back to her and the puppy, and the puppy had gone completely limp. And this is when it completely sucked to be the adult. 

Mom, do something!

Uhhhhh…Ok, grab the puppy and get in the car, we’re going to the vet place down the road. 

All the little kids are crying and freaking out, I’m running for the car, yelling at the little kids to go get their other big sister and tell her what’s happening. 

I don’t even get my seatbelt on, the car beeping at me in protest. Ruth is crying, “Live Puppy! Live Puppy!” and I’m praying Loudly, Lord, let this puppy live, PLEASE!! 

I tell Ruth to squeeze his chest. 

HOW?

I don’t know! Just squeeze it somehow!

She starts gently squeezing his chest and I’m praying and trying to drive safely.

I look over and there is foam coming out of the puppy’s mouth. I am crying and driving and praying.

Suddenly, the puppy starts breathing and sits up. Like nothing had happened. He is still wheezing, but alive!

We are almost at the vet. Traffic seems to be moving way too slowly. 

I finally pull into the driveway, no idea what I should do first. 

I pull into a slot and there are signs everywhere telling you to stay in your car and call this number, and then press #3. I don’t have time to deal with phone menus. 

I jump out of the car…a mask, shoot, wait…(this place is obviously taking covid very seriously by evidence of how many signs they have up). I grab my purse and yank on my mask. There is a woman in the car next to me, looking at me wide-eyed. Her window is down so I ask her if this place handles emergencies. She says, I don’t know, but you have to stay in your car. 

Well, this is an emergency. I can’t. 

I start running for the door and suddenly a man in uniform walks out, I run up to him and ask if they handle emergencies, my puppy is dying! He looks at me, nods yes, and comes up to the car, takes the puppy from us as I quickly explain what’s been happening, and he disappears into the building. 

I climb back into my seat and kind of collapse for a second.

Except I can’t. I left my teenager at home watching small children, but that teenager is supposed to be getting a ride to work very soon. She can’t leave the little kids alone. 

I grab my phone and call her. Give her an update on the puppy. Tell her to call her ride and cancel it, let her work know what’s going on, and I will give her a ride to work as soon as I get home. 

Then I call my husband, update him. Then I open my banking app and start figuring out where to pull the money to pay for this unexpected medical emergency. 

A nurse from inside comes out to my car. Asks if I’m a current patient. Gives me paperwork to fill out, assures me that the puppy is stable and they are taking care of him. 

Long story, a little bit shorter…They don’t find anything in his mouth or throat. They do an xray and see there is a sharp metal pointy object in his abdomen that he must have swallowed. They are worried about it causing damage when it comes out. They send him home with some special dog food to help push everything out of his system. Tell me to come back the next day for more xrays. 

Then, they call later and tell me to take the puppy to a different clinic in another part of town that can remove the object with a special tool that goes down his throat. My daughter has already given the puppy his special food before they called and the food is doing it’s work. 

That evening as we try to figure out all the moving pieces of our family and figure out who is going to take whom where, the puppy starts wheezing and coughing again. 

My husband takes off with puppy and Ruth to the new vet office, while I load up the little kids so we can go pick up some of their siblings who were on a playdate. Rushing, because I have to be home in time for another child who will be dropped off later in the evening. 

The new vet does xrays, the metal object is gone. They determine that the puppy aspirated some fluid when he was choking before and now we have to get medicine to help his lungs heal. 

Puppy is going to be ok. 

Thank you Lord. 

I, on the other hand, am going to need a bit to recover from all of that. 

My Cats are Lame

My cats stink at being cats. 

 

We have had a mouse in our upstairs for a couple weeks, and you think, well, surely if you have four cats, this will not be a problem at all. In fact, the first time my daughter frantically texted me from her bedroom (on a night when my husband was not home), telling me she saw a mouse in her bedroom, my first response was, put the cats in your room! They’ll save you! (Cause I’m sure not going to do anything!) And my daughters ran and got the cats and the cats’ response was to get comfortable on my daughter’s beds (the cats are usually refused entrance to the teenaged hallowed domain). 

 

I talked to my husband about the mouse problem and he suggested that our cats would surely take care of it. Just give them a minute. 

 

Several minutes or weeks later, (today actually) my daughter complained again about a mouse in her room. Ugh. I guess it’s time to go buy some traps. I hate killing things. Even annoying mice. 

 

Then tonight as I was trying to get kids to bed, my daughter starts yelling out in the hallway. 

 

THE CAT HAS A MOUSE!! 

 

I ran to the doorway of the room I was in and saw the cat with a very alive mouse in the hall. 

 

Playing with it. 

 

Not hurting it. 

 

Not killing it. 

 

Not dragging it away out of our sight. 

 

Nope. 

 

Just letting it go and then chasing it whenever it ran. 

 

I looked around for something to jump up on, just in case the mouse ran in my direction. Little kids started running into the hall to see what was happening and I was yelling at everyone to get back into their bedrooms. Yelling at the cat to just kill the mouse or take it away! Then the mouse ran under a folded sheet that happened to be on the floor. (I have no idea why there was a folded sheet on the floor, it seems to be a favorite pastime of my children to haul things off the linen shelf and just leave them on the floor, it’s a mystery.) 

 

The cat was circling the sheet, trying to figure out where the mouse was and the five year old thought he should come and pick up the sheet, just to see what would happen. I’m yelling for him to get away before the mouse runs up his legs. Then the eleven and thirteen year old boys run out of their room. 

 

What’s going on? 

 

GET THE MOUSE!! YOUR CAT HAS A MOUSE! CATCH IT! 

 

They both quickly jumped into macho-man mode and tried to catch the mouse. Working in tandem, one son pinned the mouse to the floor with a stuffed animal. 

 

Ok. What are you going to do now? 

 

He shrugs. I don’t know. 

 

Then he lets it loose again!

 

DON’T LET IT LOOSE AGAIN!!!

 

But he redeems himself by scooping up the mouse with the sheet and making a run for the stairs to take it outside. 

 

YAY!! You are our hero!

 

Dumb cats. 

Shadow

My son Joshua got a kitten last year. We decided to not get her fixed right away. Let her have one litter of kittens so our kids could experience the miracle of life. I conveniently forgot that hand in hand with the miracle of life comes the tragedy of death. 

 

My foster son has been asking me for a kitten for five months. Five very long months. Practically every day we would have a conversation about kittens. Finally, our cat became pregnant and we promised him that he could choose one of the kittens. He chose a very sweet little black kitten with white markings, named him Shadow. 

 

This morning we discovered that in the night Mama Cat had decided to move her kittens. She had put them in a dangerous place and the little black kitten had gotten squished somehow and had died. 

 

They brought him to me in their hands, crying, hoping that I could fix it. I frantically looked for any signs of life, ready to rush to the vet immediately, but the kitten was dead. And I sat there crying, because it was a sweet innocent little thing. And it was my foster son’s. And he doesn’t deserve this kind of tragedy in his life. 

 

One of my daughters brought me a cloth that we could wrap him up in. My husband dug a hole in the back of the yard. We had a funeral. We buried him and then shared our memories. I told the kids that it’s customary to put flowers on a grave and they ran and found flowers. We fashioned a tombstone and my foster son wrote his memorial on it. 

 

And right now life just feels sucky. 

 

Rest in Peace little Shadow.

20200613_102117

NOT a Bad Day

I needed to write. So you all get a bonus Blog today. 

 

My lifetime enemy, depression, has been rearing its ugly head lately. I’ve been in denial. I’m fine. I’ve got this. I’m ok. Then today, when I found myself glued to my chair, not wanting to move, except to climb into bed and sleep, I realized, oh, yes, I recognize this pattern. 

 

I’ve decided to fight back a bit. The worst thing about depression is that it whispers, “Failure!” in my ear, constantly. So, I have decided to compile a list of ways that I did not fail today. Speak a bit of truth. 

 

First, my two and five year old boys, who were in my charge all day, are alive and well. They ate, got cleaned, played, watched tv, went outside. As far as they are concerned, it was a great day.

I got all my school age kids to and from school without a hitch, and they are all in a good mood, playing with friends.

Supper is cooking. The dishes are caught up. The laundry is doing ok. The downstairs of the house is clean. Sure, I paid the kids to clean it because I wasn’t able to force myself to do it. But, the kids got some pocket money, they’re happy, it was cheaper than hiring a maid, and I can say that I used my delegating skills.

I also signed our family up for health insurance for the next year on Healthcare.gov, which is a soul-sucking experience in itself. It actually took me two days to finish the whole application. But, it’s done! 

 

I kept the fire going in the woodstove. 

 

I’m getting along with my husband. 

 

My pets are happy. 

 

It wasn’t a failure day.

 

So, for all my friends out there fighting depression and anxiety, this is actually a pretty good tool. Write down everything that was right in the day, even if you have to grasp at straws, like, The sun came up today and set as normal. No tornadoes blew my house down. My car didn’t explode. I didn’t catch the plague… See! It works! I’m feeling better already. 🙂 

 

Thanks for listening. 

 

 

A Boy and His Kitten

kitten

We got a new kitten this weekend. Or rather, my ten year old son got a new kitten this weekend. Because of course, that’s what this crazy house needed, another pet.  

 

But, my son has been asking for approximately two years now for a pet. And I’ve been putting him off because his brothers had pet ferrets and a pet dog, I had a pet cat, his dad had pet fish and I didn’t feel up to taking on more than that. In fact, I have been pretty emphatic that we were done with getting pets. In fact, my husband said, no more pets unless some of the current pets find a new home. In fact, we were united in our stance against new pets.

 

But he kept asking. Pleading. Coming up with all kinds of creative ways he could manage a pet so we wouldn’t even notice it was around. We tossed around the idea of him getting a fish. No. He wanted something he could cuddle. Then I suggested that he take part ownership of the ferrets and dog since his oldest brother was very busy and was on his way to being gone for a year. No. He wanted his Own pet. 

 

And then a week or so ago he told me that his friend who lives down the street had kittens at his house…could he have one of the kittens? And I thought about it and really couldn’t think of any reason to keep saying No to this poor child, and so, I ended up saying Yes. (And his father grudgingly agreed.)

 

Why? Because he’s quirky and I think he needs his own special animal friend. Why? Because  he is not wired to enjoy school work and yet his teachers tell me that he works hard and is a model student in their classes. Why? Because I let my older children have pets and I want to be fair. Why? Because I secretly like kittens and while he’s at school, I’ll get to hold it… 

 

This parenting thing is complicated. Finding the balance between not losing your own sanity, making sure your kids are happy, and making sure they’re also learning how to be responsible. Not killing their dreams, but not spoiling them. 

 

I love my son. He’s very different from me and I have found it a challenge to meet him where he’s at, instead of trying to force him into a mold that is easier to handle. And that is the essence of parenting. Learning how to let go of your own expectations and instead work with what you’ve got. 

 

What I’ve got is a highly intelligent, creative, business-savvy boy who tends to create waves amongst his siblings, who loves to learn new things, (just don’t ask him to read it out of a book), who knows how to wrap his teachers around his little finger, but struggles with the daily playground politics. He’s a kid who is willing to work hard if he’s going to be compensated. He can take a cardboard box and tape and turn it into anything you want. He is a Master Lego Builder, and the arch-nemesis of his younger sister. He frustrates me and delights me. He’s a boy. 

 

And now he’s a boy with a kitten. 

 

And my pet tally has now gone up to: 

 

1 dog

2 ferrets

2 cats

5 fish

3 crawdads

 

I have a feeling those numbers will change again. 

 

Unexpected Pets

We had a really strange thing happen Friday night. My son was walking past our back door and saw a white cat sitting outside the door meowing. He opened the door and the cat walked right in and started nudging him to be petted. My son was bewildered and started petting the cat who acted like it was the most normal thing to be in our house. The cat was white with a bobbed tail and little chunks missing from his ears. It was a bit dirty and had what looked like a flea collar around its neck. Here’s the weird part. The cat looked exactly like our old cat Jasmine. We got Jasmine 10 years ago for our first daughter’s 8th birthday. Jasmine did not do well in our home. She didn’t like all the kids running around, being rowdy, bothering her. She eventually became pretty mean, scratching and biting whenever she got near to us. Or, even worse, she would come up to us like she wanted to be pet, we would hesitantly pet her and she would act like she enjoyed it, and then all of a sudden she would turn around and bite your hand really hard and then run away. Charming. It got to the point that my kids didn’t want to go into a room if she was sitting there. Three and half years ago we finally decided that it was not good to have a pet in our home who was terrorizing the kids, and the poor cat seemed to be suffering from PTSD. We found a home for her in another town with an older lady, no children in sight. We heard that she had adjusted well and was happy. End of story.

So, suddenly Jasmine’s twin shows up on our door. Was it Jasmine? I came out and saw the cat and it looked exactly like her. The cat was walking around our house like it was familiar with it and then it went and settled in the laundry room where we used to keep Jasmine’s litter box and food and water. Jasmine? Well. The thought that our old cat might have traveled over long distances and time to find us about broke my heart. I sent my son out to buy some cat litter and some food. If this was Jasmine there was no way I would turn her away. The only hesitation I had was that this cat was super-friendly. It wanted to be petted and didn’t scratch or bite once. Had Jasmine had a turn of heart?

My son got the litter box set up and the cat showed that it knew what to do with a litter box. It was late at night so we went to bed and decided to figure out what to do in the morning.

In the morning we were talking about the cat who was happily being stroked and petted by all the children and who didn’t seem to mind the kids at all. I told my son to cut off the flea collar it was wearing as it was old and ratty. I held the cat while he cut it off and then we discovered that it wasn’t a flea collar but was actually a collar from the Young Williams Animal Center. The collar had an I.D. number and a phone number. So I called the animal center and told them about the cat. They looked up the I.D. number and said that this cat was part of their Trap Neuter Release program and had just been a stray that they picked up. He had been fixed and had all his shots and I was welcome to keep the cat. He. A boy. Not Jasmine. I double checked, just to make sure. Yep. A boy.

So. A cat that looks exactly like our old cat shows up at our door. The only reason we opened the door to this cat was because he looked like our old cat. We have a lot of feral cats that wander our back alley and are used to ignoring random cats that walk around our yard. Then, this cat walks into our house, obviously house trained, and acts like he’s the prodigal son returned home.

I would like to add that I have been wanting a pet for myself for some time, but wasn’t quite ready to take the plunge. I wanted a cat that would sit in my lap while I was reading a book, or a small gentle lap dog. But, remembering our last experience with a cat, I was wary of trying again. What if the cat I got ended up not fitting in well with our chaos? Or if I got a puppy I would have to house train it and deal with all the puppy shenanigans. I’ve already got two small children. I didn’t need another child to take care of. So. I have put off getting myself a pet. Well, apparently, I am now the new owner of a very friendly, sweet cat. I am even now heading off to the store to get cat paraphernalia. It’s all so odd. I am sure there is a divine hand in all of this. My husband says he’s probably one of our guardian angels in disguise. All that to say. I am happy. I have a cat!  

meandcat