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Recovery

10 Feb

Life has been rough lately.  I’ve been sick for the last 7 weeks.  Yes.  SEVEN weeks.  Bronchitis, sinusitis, pleurisy, costochondritis.  We’ve truly been in survival mode.  Alex has watched way too much TV, and I can’t even feel guilty about that because at least he had something to do while Mommy was laid up on the couch, trying not to cry from all the pain.  Alex came down with croup the same week that I ended up at the ER because I thought I’d fractured a rib.  (That was when I was diagnosed with costochondritis, 2 days after being diagnosed with pleurisy.)  And Steven was laid up in bed the entire weekend (of that same week!) with a high fever and just generally feeling awful.

Yep, no guilt that the entire family can pretty much quote all of the movie Cars now.  TV has been my best friend and babysitter through much of this.  Forts help, too.

While all this was going on, we were also having issues with our new kitten, Theo.  While he figured out the litter box in a single night, he wasn’t consistent with it.  He was already treated once for a bladder infection, so the vet thought it was now behavioral.  I wasn’t convinced.  We were cleaning messes off the floor daily, but he was containing them to the same spots, and they weren’t vindictive in nature.  When he peed on the bare tile, that was my opportunity to suck it up in a syringe and take it to the vet’s office for testing.  I was right; it’s medical.  Theo has crystals in his urine, so he and Ninja are now on a prescription diet to take care of the problem.  So far, so good.  Theo is now consistently using his box.   So glad because when you’re already feeling awful, having to clean up feces and urine every day is just lousy.

This week I finally started to feel better.  I’m cooking again, after weeks of takeout and eating from the freezer.  Good thing because all the meals I’d stocked are now gone.  My singing voice still isn’t right, but at least I no longer sound like a 13-year-old boy whose voice is changing when I sing Alex’s night-night song to him every evening.  And while I can’t go outside most days of our unusually-cold winter, we did have one day last week that the temps were high enough not to set off a massive bout of coughing.  Alex was thrilled to get to play in the snow.

Please ignore the complete lack of makeup.  I do not look like a proper Dallas girl.  My excuse: I was sick.

Please ignore the complete lack of makeup. I do not look like a proper Dallas girl. My excuse: I was sick.

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And when the weekend rolled around, he got to go back out with his daddy.  They threw snow at each other.  Super fun.

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My autoimmune issues are causing this to be an extra-long ordeal, and I feel as if I’ll never be well again.  But I seem to be past the worst.  I can hold my child again without gasping in pain.  The coughing has subsided greatly.  I haven’t had to bust out the heavy-duty narcotics for over a week.  And I can now run errands again without having Steven along to carry Alex and lift him into a shopping cart.  Struggling to lift my 34-lb. toddler has been the hardest part of this.  Sick and in pain or not, I had to care for my child.  Thankfully, Alex has really been quite good while we’ve been mostly housebound for the past 2 months.  He’s had his moments of practically tearing the house apart from cabin fever, but in general, he’s been wonderfully well behaved and happily entertained by his toys and movies.  Housekeeping fell by the wayside, which made me crazy, but I knew to let some of that go.  When I cleaned the entire house this past week, it felt like victory.

There’s a light at the end of the (ridiculously long) tunnel.

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New Cat

3 Dec

Perhaps it’s wrong of me, but whenever I’ve had an old, sick cat, I’ve found myself thinking ahead to what sort of cat I want to get next.  It’s not that I wanted to get rid of Doogie, or Calvin before him, but I suppose it was just facing the reality of the inevitable.  Pets get old, then they die.  Eventually, we get a new pet.  Circle of life.

For several months, I’ve been wanting an orange tabby.  Our first cat, Calvin, was a brown tabby.  When he passed away, I couldn’t do another tabby.  It was too painful to even look at the tabbies up for adoption at Petsmart.  The rescue led us to the black cats instead, and that’s how our amazing Ninja Cat joined our family.  He’s been perfect for us.

But nearly 3 years after losing Calvin, I’m ready for another tabby.  They’re such amazing cats, and an orange one would just be different enough not to be a painful reminder.

We had a plan to get a new cat after Thanksgiving.  Ninja was lonely without his buddy Doogie to hang out with.  We didn’t want to get a new cat before Thanksgiving because we were leaving for Texas for nearly a week, and we did not want to introduce a new cat, then leave town.  “Bye, guys!  Hope you get along and don’t tear the house apart!”  Yeah…

Exactly one week before Thanksgiving, my MOPS group got together at someone’s house for a play group.  Within moments of arriving, I noticed a little orange tabby kitten at the storm door.  Rather, my son noticed.  He was standing at the door with the hostess’s dog by his side, and this little kitten pawing at the glass door in front of him.  (Alex is so my child.  He didn’t pay much attention to the other kids, but the animals?  He was all about the animals.)  The hostess had never seen this cat before, but he hung out like he belonged.  For the next 2 hours, he alternated between hanging out at the front storm door and the back sliding-glass door.  He sat there meowing and pawing at the door to try to get in.  He even climbed the bricks of the house to grab at the door handle!

Of course, being the sucker for animals that I am, I melted all over the place and wanted to take him home with me.  But seeing as we were leaving town in 5 days, we didn’t know if this cat belonged to a neighbor, etc., I simply left after the play date.  But the hostess and I stayed in touch about him.  She is also a sucker for animals, and the temperature dropped that day quite dramatically.  She let him sleep in her shed and fed him.   And she kept reporting back to me about his friendly and mellow temperament.

I sort of felt like God was saying, “Here.  I know the desires of your heart, and you really want an orange tabby.  Here’s one who needs a home.”

Convincing my husband of this was a whole other matter.  Pretty sure he’s a robot underneath his skin because while I was being all emotional and begging with tears in my eyes to keep this little kitten (“But God brought him to me!”), he was completely rational and logical and saying that we know nothing about this cat.  He was pushing to go to a rescue that knows a bit about their cats, while I begged to keep this little guy who clearly needed a home.

The hostess of the play group offered to keep this cat until we returned from Texas.  (She was so in cahoots with me!)  She also suggested that I bring Steven and Alex over with me to meet this cat.  (Steven kept arguing that we don’t even know if this cat would be good with Alex, who is loud and unpredictable.)  It took a lot of pleading, but Steven agreed to meet the cat.

We went over there, and as soon as I picked up this little orange kitten, he snuggled into me and purred loudly.  He didn’t protest when Alex clumsily petted him.  And when Alex had a screaming, flailing fit right next to him, this cat didn’t even flinch.  That clinched it.  Steven saw how awesome this kitten was, and he said yes to it.

Clearly, the cat was in cahoots with me, too.

I made a vet appointment for the Monday after Thanksgiving.  As long as he passed a feline leukemia test, I was allowed to keep him.  I think Steven might have secretly been hoping that the cat would move on while we were in Texas, but he stuck around at my friend’s house, so he was ready to be picked up on Monday morning.  The vet declared him in good health, he got his shots, and now he’s home with us.  He didn’t know how to use a litter box, so after 2 accidents, we locked him in the laundry room with food, water, a bed, and a litter box.  He figured it out in one night.  He’s a smart little thing!

He’s also amazing with the toddler.  He lets Alex hug him, kiss him, pet him, play with him.  He’ll even stay put if I place him in Alex’s lap.  Alex is in heaven with a cat who doesn’t run away!

Ninja is not quite as happy.  He’s walking around the house growling and hissing and hiding under the bed.  Poor baby doesn’t know what to make of this friendly little kitten who doesn’t act at all intimidated by this tough act Ninja keeps trying to put on.  We figure he’ll come around in a few days, though.  None of our cats have ever taken kindly to a new cat in the house, but they always make friends eventually.

Because I feel like God himself gave me this little cat, we named him Theodore, which means Gift of God.  We’re calling him Theo for short.  He’s made himself right at home.

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But Joy Comes with the Morning

20 Nov

It’s been 2 weeks since we lost our sweet Doogie.  Turns out, life goes on.

Ninja grieved hard for about a week.  He’s adjusted now, although he has become a bit clingy.  When we first adopted him, he couldn’t believe his good fortune in getting a real home of his own.  He spent his days plastered to me, gratitude pouring off of him in a most uncharacteristic fashion for a feline.  Now he spends his days next to me because he’s lonely without his brother.  Doogie didn’t play with him much these last few months, but he was a presence, a warm body to snuggle with, a buddy to take meals with.

Never underestimate the power of just being there.  There’s definitely a lesson in that.

A surprisingly good photo of Ninja, taken by the toddler

A surprisingly good photo of Ninja, taken by the toddler

Alex no longer asks about Doogie, although I did have to field a question from the little neighbor girl about what happened to the other cat.  I just said that he got old and sick and went to live in heaven.

The leaves on the ground no longer seem to mimic our sorrow.  They’re just leaves, and they’re kind of fun.  Alex and I have been crunching our way through the yard, kicking leaves and having a good time.  This really is a beautiful time of year.

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We’re already talking about a new cat.  We’d love to go ahead and get one now, as Ninja really needs a buddy.  But somehow that seems foolish when we’re about to leave for Thanksgiving.  “Bye guys!  Hope you get along and don’t tear the house apart!”  So Ninja will just have to get through Thanksgiving, then he can have a new friend.  I worry about leaving him for a few days without a buddy, but we have a sweet friend coming to check on him daily, so I think he’ll be all right, just lonely.  But hey, it’ll make him appreciate a new cat all the more, right?  (I’m laughing right now because introducing a new cat into the household is never an easy process for the resident cat.)

Are we crazy for wanting to bring in a new cat just when we’ll be putting up the Christmas tree?  Probably.  I remember Doogie’s first Christmas with us.  He was such a climber when he was a kitten.  The Christmas tree proved irresistible for him.  He was up at the very top in probably 2 seconds flat.  So, we may be dealing with more of that, but right now, it sounds pretty great.  Life goes on, and it’s time to rescue a cat who needs a home.

Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.  Psalm 30:5

Grief

8 Nov

I sit outside, sun down, floodlights on, and watch my toddler cram fallen leaves into the cab of his toy dump truck.  When the week started, the leaves were still on the maple trees.  By week’s end, many lay on the ground, having fallen in their annual ritual.  It seems a fitting end to this week of sadness, as if the trees are crying leafy tears.

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The whole household is grieving.  How do you explain to a toddler the concept of heaven?  He asks for his cat, and there is no explanation he understands.  He just knows the cat is gone.  Our Ninja Cat roams the house, searching Doogie’s favorite hiding places, calling to his brother and getting no answer.  He spends his days plastered to my side, curled in my lap in the moments I sit, snuggled into me when I sleep at night.  He runs to us and looks relieved when we return home after leaving him alone for a while to run errands.  He doesn’t know how to be an only cat.

I wrestle with the decision of life or death.  Did we do the right thing?  Should we have waited to see if he got better?  The idea of putting a suffering creature out of its misery is a noble one…until you have to make the decision yourself.  Humans aren’t meant to play God, and it’s good that we aren’t allowed to make these sorts of decisions for each other.  

My husband sees my pain, feels my wet tears as he holds me.  He reassures me that what we did was right.  He even says that he made the decision, so I need not feel the pressing guilt that threatens to crush me.  In my head, I know he’s right.  But my heart.  Oh, my heart.  How deeply it hurts.  Doogie was my baby, the sweet, spunky kitten I chose over 14 years ago to join our family.  The kitten who won over our crotchety tabby cat.  The little cat who accepted Ninja willingly when our tabby died, and we brought a new brother home.  The cat who seemed to shrug his little shoulders when we brought Alex home from the hospital.  He could take anything we threw at him.  But kidney disease did him in.

I wish his last days had been better.  He made Alex cry the day before he died.  We were in the vet’s waiting room, surrounded by other pet owners and their dogs, a toddler he didn’t like getting in his face in his carrier and exuberantly saying, “Hi!”  When Alex stuck a finger in his carrier, Doogie reacted in terror.  A paw came slashing through the carrier bars and smacked Alex.  He didn’t hurt him, but oh my heart, Alex’s face crumpled with the betrayal of it all, then the hot tears came.  I gathered my human baby up in my arms, while saying soothing words to the furry one.

This isn’t the way I want to remember Doogie.

I see something out of the corner of my eye, and I turn, expecting to see a little gray-and-white cat.  But it’s just a toy.  Or the laundry basket.  My heart hurts all over again when I remember he’s not here.

We have a board book, Busy Kitties, which Alex loves.  We read it together, and I smile as Alex imitates the cats.  I say something about Ninja, and Alex meows in response.  Then he says, “Doo-ie!”  I ask if he wants to see Doogie.  He nods enthusiastically with a grin on his face.  He has forgotten that Doogie slapped at him.  He remembers only that a Doogie sighting is a thing of excitement.  Doogie avoided Alex as much as possible, but Alex squealed with joy whenever Doogie made an appearance.  I smile and try not to cry as I explain again that Doogie went to live in heaven.  He looks puzzled, but he quickly moves on to something else.

I wash dishes while Steven is upstairs bathing Alex.  Ninja cries.  His meows grow desperate and ever louder.  I call him to me, and he comes, but he looks confused and runs back out of the room.  I see him under a chair, calling out with everything in him.  I come undone because I realize he is wanting Doogie to answer him, and I know that it isn’t coming.  I stop what I’m doing, pull off washing-up gloves, and go to him.  I sit on the floor, drawing him into my lap.  He sinks into me, burrowing his head under my hand, wanting comfort.  His grief is palpable, and I cry with him.  Tell him he’s loved and not alone.  We sit together for a while, and then I go back to my work.  Ninja is quiet.

This is life after loss.  It is guilt, sadness, pain, loneliness.  But it is also joy.  Joy that Doogie no longer suffers.  That he is with his beloved big brother, Calvin, the tabby who ended up adoring him.  My husband reminds me we had 14 good years with him.  He lived long, and he lived well.  We have so many happy memories of him, and they will come back to me when I’m less encumbered by the weight of fresh grief.

And then there’s the joy in knowing that in a few weeks, we’ll be ready to start all over, choosing just the right cat for our family, one who will win over his or her new big brother and steal our hearts.  Just like Doogie.

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Saying Good-bye

5 Nov

It all happened so fast.

Doogie, our sweet little 14-year-old cat, spent the weekend vomiting profusely.  He was obviously weakening.  The weather had grown colder, and his arthritis made him limp in pain.  I had to wait until Monday to take him to the vet, as there is no emergency vet here.  The news was bad.  His kidney levels had dropped significantly, and he had become anemic.

The vet asked, “You do know what’s coming, right?”  Tears sprang to my eyes.  Yes, I knew.  I wasn’t ready, but I knew.  (Is anyone ever ready?)

Doogie was sent home, having had a shot to quell his nausea.  He had a fresh bottle of Azodyl, his medication for his kidneys.  We were all set to get him feeling better.  But it wasn’t meant to be.

Once we returned home, Doogie went into hiding.  This isn’t unusual for a cat who isn’t feeling well, and I figured his excessive sleeping was just a side effect of the shot he’d received.  But he also stopped eating and drinking.

Then today, he wet his bed and messed himself in the process.  This is the cat who once did the Potty Dance in front of the litter box while Steven cleaned it.  Ninja was new in our household, and he had an undiagnosed infection in his digestive tract.  He was making the litter box really disgusting, and Doogie held his bladder until nearly bursting all night until Steven woke up and cleaned the box.  This is a cat who would never go outside his box.  So this was the final signal that it was time.

Doogie needed his dignity.  We chose to give him that.

I spent the afternoon second guessing the decision.  But I had to drag Doogie out from under the bed just to hold him for a while.  Sweet baby sat in my lap and purred and let me pet him, but after a while, he jumped down.  He really just wanted to be left alone, and it was obvious that he was in pain.  I knew we were doing the right thing.

My neighbor was kind enough to watch Alex for me.  I didn’t want to wrangle a toddler while saying good-bye to the cat, and frankly, as Doogie never liked Alex, it was best for him.

We held Doogie, petted him, kissed him, and told him how special and wonderful he was.  Sweet kitten purred until the very end.

And my heart broke into a thousand tiny pieces.

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Summer Recap

30 Aug

While it hasn’t been a terribly busy summer, it has been eventful.

We took an awesome family trip to Vail, CO.
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Alex received a craft table and chairs from his grandparents.  Coloring is now Alex’s favorite activity.  I’ve loved it, too, once we worked past his desire to color all the furniture, the windows, and the TV.  (Thank God for washable crayons!)

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Alex has been having a blast with his little pool in the backyard.

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Alex met his cousins for the first time.

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I set Alex up in the bathtub with shaving cream mixed with food coloring and let him go at it.

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My long-suffering cats have been hugged and pretend fed by Alex.  Doogie usually runs away, but he got hugged by Alex a couple of weeks ago when he was frozen in place, puking.  Insult to injury.  Alex saw an opening to hug a cat, and he took it.  Poor Doogie.  That’s okay.  He’s enjoyed playing Lord of the Dogs with the new craft table.

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And finally, we’ve survived a bout with scarlet fever, regular strep, a stomach bug (me), and a very nasty mystery illness that resulted in high fever followed by a blistered, oozing rash.  That last one took down both Alex and my husband.  It’s been a not-fun couple of weeks around here.  Hoping for better health come fall.

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The Feeding of Cats and Toddlers

14 Aug

I don’t believe in feeding little kids a bland diet.  While Alex did, of course, start out on the typical rice cereal and baby food fruits and vegetables, once he started eating what we eat, I didn’t dumb it down for him.  I didn’t shy away from spices with him.  I think this has a lot to do with why he’s such a good eater now.  We can eat just about anything, and he’s happy.  Tex-Mex, Chinese, Korean, Indian… he’ll eat it all.  (When I made Korean BBQ for my husband for Father’s Day, Alex ate the Spicy Miso Dip like pudding.)

You know what he doesn’t like?  Fast food!  He’ll inhale French fries (who won’t?!), but chicken nuggets?  Burgers?  No interest.  Generally, I’d consider this a very good thing, but it was a pain in the butt when we were coming home from vacation and didn’t want to take the time or spend the money for sit-down restaurants on the last day of our drive home.  But it is good to know that his little palate knows that this food is inferior.

Does anyone else have issues with children’s menus at restaurants?  They’re all the same.  Chicken nuggets/strips, hamburger, grilled cheese, macaroni and cheese.  My son doesn’t care for the first two, and the second two are too dairy-heavy for my mildly milk-allergic son.  He eats too much to share my own meal, yet it pains me to pay $10 or so for an adult entree for a not-quite-2-year-old.

It’s so much easier (and cheaper) to just eat at home.

The only truly difficult thing about feeding this child is that he picks and chooses when he’ll like something.  One day he’s thrilled to eat panko-crusted pork cutlets with katsu sauce and a salad of cabbage with a dressing of peanut oil and ponzu.  But the next day, he rejects the same meal.   I guess it’s a toddler control thing.  Truly, I can’t complain.  My kid isn’t insisting he can only eat chicken nuggets, macaroni, and applesauce, as I’ve heard many other little kids do.

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Feeding my cats, on the other hand, has been difficult since moving here.  Doogie eats a prescription renal diet for his kidneys.  My new vet doesn’t carry his brand.  This is problematic, as switching foods is hard on a cat’s stomach, and both Doogie and Ninja have sensitive tummies.  (You can actually read about our issues with Doogie in Chicken Soup for the Cat Lover’s Soul.  Shameless plug.)  Our vet in Texas was happy to continue to supply us with Doogie’s food, but she can’t do that any longer, as she hasn’t seen Doogie in over a year.  It finally occurred to me to check Amazon.  I used to buy our former cat’s medicine from a supplier on Amazon without a prescription.  Sure enough, I found a company selling Doogie’s prescription food without a prescription.  Yea!!!

The other problem we’ve had is that Ninja eats a high-quality wet food that I can’t find here in town.  So I’ve been having to drive to Tulsa an hour away to buy his food.  (He needs this food to supplement his diet, as the renal food doesn’t have enough protein for a young cat’s needs.)  I did try some other brands that I can get here in town, but he just didn’t like them as well.  What can I say?  I’m a sucker for my furry boys, and I want to make them happy.  For the first time, I recently found his food on Amazon for less than I can buy it at Petsmart, so he now has a shipment set to arrive soon, too.

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Sometimes it feels as if feeding all the small creatures takes up way too much of my time and energy and thoughts!  But a healthy diet for all is too important to do any less.