Saturday, July 14, 2012

The life lesson we hadn't intended

48 hours ago, this post (which I've been working on for weeks now) had a different title and a very different ending.  I've been undecided about whether I should even post this (after all, none of the other Life Stuff that has been going on in my world has made it to the blog in the past several months...) but I figure at this point, perhaps it will provide closure.

A few months before Kiddo's ninth birthday, Hubby and I decided that we were going to give her what she would consider the Best Birthday Present EVER: a kitten of her very own.  Kiddo had been having a pretty rough year in school, and while finances haven't been the greatest (are they really that great for anyone these days?), we decided adding one more cat to the household wouldn't be a strain after the initial adoption fees and vet fees.  We bought a litter box, some dishes and some new cat toys and wrapped them up for her in a box.  Following her first ever slumber party, which ended the morning of her actual birthday, we gave Kiddo the box to open.

At first, she thought these were just props she could use in playing kitty.  (She has several pairs of cat ears and tails and quite frequently pretends she is a cat.  I have even run errands with my kiddo-kitty.  Yes, one does get some strange looks when one is accompanied to the store by a child wearing cat ears and a tail.)  When we told her "well, you could use those to play kitty, or we could take you to the animal shelter right now and you could pick out a kitten" she went speechless.  I didn't think humans' eyes could actually get so large - it was like a cartoon come to life.

Needless to say, she was totally on board with the plan.  We hopped in the car, cat carrier in hand, and drove across the county to the shelter from which we'd adopted our older cat ten years ago.  (I'd called beforehand to confirm that they did, in fact, have many kittens available for adoption.)  It didn't take long at all before she fell in love with a kitten that was loaded up and on the way home with us less than an hour later - an auburn and white DLH that she named Mittens.

Mittens was an awesome fit for Kiddo.  She was a purring machine and instantly bonded with her new human, happy to be held and snuggled to Kiddo's heart's content.  Friends and relatives stopped by to meet the new arrival.  Kiddo introduced Mittens to her cousins in NJ via Skype.  She was happier than we've ever seen her.  It made my heart full to witness her joy and love for Mittens. 


Mittens, who was set up in Kiddo's room in a home base/quarantine situation to start with (before introducing her to our other cat), ate well, drank well, played well, used her litter box.  However, we noticed when she used her litter box for the first time that she had diarrhea.  And the second time.  And the time after that.  For the first two days, it was nothing but diarrhea.  Needless to say, we were concerned.  I called the vet and we brought her in with a stool sample on the third day for a check up.  We were sent home with medicine and the recommendation to feed her only meat baby food, which would be the most easily digested thing she could eat and therefore help rest her digestive tract so it could heal.  The vet wasn't overly concerned - diarrhea in shelter kittens isn't uncommon - and we were confident that a few days of the medicine plus the new diet would do the trick.

But it didn't.  A few days later, she still had constant diarrhea (which required her to be confined in an extra-large dog crate so the mess would stay contained - one that we totally decked out for her, including a carpeted "loft" Hubby built and installed in it, and also required me to bathe her back end to clean her up after she went because her long fur was no match for the mess squirting out of her).

She also started seeming less interested in her food and water, which was alarming.  Back to the vet we went, with another stool sample.  He felt that things could still turn around, since she hadn't been on the medicine for the full week yet, and gave her a hydration treatment which perked her right back up.  We were allowed to bring her home again, with an appointment made for three days' time to follow up.  While she was eating and drinking normally and back to her usual self following that hydration treatment, she still had the diarrhea when we took her in for the follow-up appointment.  That was when the vet decided the best thing to do at that point was to hospitalize Mittens, where he could monitor her more closely and try a higher level of intervention than we could provide at home.  We left the animal hospital with Kiddo in tears, but with the reassurance that things would surely get better and Mittens would be home in a few days.

This began a two and a half week period of visits to Mittens the inpatient - I'd pick Kiddo up at dismissal on school days and we'd trek over to the animal hospital, and on the weekends we'd head over as soon as we'd finished breakfast.  The staff would let us have a room (at first, one of the exam rooms, but then they let us use the shelter's adoption visit room instead, which was large, full of cat toys and had seating for humans) and we'd spend an hour or two (or three) with Mittens.  Kiddo would bring her favorite toy from home and would play with her and snuggle her. 

Mittens remained steadfastly loving and happy and active, but still had the bowel issues.  She got to the point where, despite being on steroids and a special hypoallergenic diet, she was just leaking constantly.  She'd run around the room playing with Kiddo, and I'd follow behind with a wipe to clean up the floor behind her.  It was a daily, ongoing heartbreak.  Every car ride home was full of questions and tears.  When will Mittens be better?  Why can't God fix her (Kiddo had not only been praying at home, but asking for prayers at church as well)?  Will she be home by Tuesday-Thursday-Friday-the weekend-next week?  No one could say.

The vet did everything in his power.  There was no cause he could come up with; she had no parasites, no illness, even the food allergies we suspected turned out negative.  Nearing the end of the second week of her hospitalization, he came in to talk to us as Kiddo and Mittens were playing in the visitation room.  He was blunt - he was nearing the end of his capabilities, and Mittens would need to be referred to a specialist for further investigation of the cause.  He suspected that it was a congenital defect.  He was willing to try one more thing - a different drug - in combination with the special diet, but if that didn't improve things (and he was no longer optimistic that they would improve), then she would be deemed "unadoptable" and she wouldn't be able to come home.  Kiddo was shattered.  (And of course, no child with an adoption story of her own - as Kiddo and I both have - wants to hear the word "unadoptable" either.  Ever.)  He suggested that Kiddo just pick out a new kitten and give up on Mittens.  Well, that wasn't happening.  Kiddo was determined to stick with Mittens until the very end - an end she still believed could be a healthy kitten coming home again.

We went on like this for another week.  The daily pilgrimages to the hospital, the bittersweet happiness in spending time with Mittens, the crushing sadness in the car ride home afterward.  We tried to prepare Kiddo for the probability that Mittens wouldn't come home.  The hospital has a few "hospital kitties" who were deemed "unadoptable" but who have a happy life there and are well cared for.  We talked this option up to Kiddo - that Mittens could be a "hospital kitty" and while she felt that was unfair, we just fervently hoped that would be the outcome, as opposed to her being put down.  Kiddo had us promise that we'd go and visit Mittens if she did become a "hospital kitty" who lived at the vet's.

Over the weekend following the talk with the vet, Mittens seemed to be improving.  Hope!  More than a glimmer - it seemed like the "last resort" drug was actually working!  She wasn't leaking anymore, and her stool was still soft, but not watery.  Then, when I took Kiddo over there the following Tuesday (the penultimate day of school), major heartbreak.  The vet tech on duty told us that Mittens was back to the leaking, watery, "spraying everywhere" diarrhea.  The vet had officially declared her unadoptable.  I had this conversation with the vet tech out in the hallway, as Kiddo played blithely on with Mittens in the visitation room.  I texted Hubby.  It was time for Kiddo to say goodbye to Mittens.  The vet tech said we could choose another kitten - a healthy one - to bring home instead, as they still had many, many kittens who needed homes.  I went back into the visitation room.  Kiddo could see the look on my face and knew it was bad news.

That was the hardest thing I'd ever had to tell her - that she needed to say goodbye to Mittens, because Mittens wasn't going to be able to come home.  Once the vet tech collected Mittens and took her out of the room, Kiddo and I sat and cried together.  Absolute heartbreak.  I asked Kiddo if she would want another kitten, because this was totally up to her - she could choose one now, or at some other point, or not at all.  She decided to look at the other kittens who needed homes, so we saw six other kittens.  The sixth one looked like Mittens (although they weren't related) with the same dark fur and white belly and paws.  Kiddo sat with the kitten, played with her, and thought about it.  She decided she would like to bring this kitten home.

So, home we went with a new kitten, whom Kiddo named Socks.

Socks has a distinctly different personality than Mittens - much more mischievous and less snuggly overall, but still loving and happy to be with Kiddo.  She quickly decided her favorite sleeping spot was right smack-dab on Kiddo's head.  Kiddo nicknamed her TTT for Teeny Tiny Troublemaker, as well as "the IBK" (for Itty Bitty Kitty).  Socks was just 8 weeks old the day we brought her home.

Kiddo told me that night that she was confused.  She was so sad about Mittens but happy about Socks.  She didn't know which feeling was "correct" and she didn't want Mittens to be sad that she was happy about Socks, and she didn't want Socks to be sad that she was sad about Mittens.  We had a lengthy talk about how it is okay to feel both things at once, to be both sad about Mittens and happy about Socks.  We talked about how you don't stop loving someone just because they aren't with you any more.  We continued to pray that Mittens would have a happy life, even if it was as a hospital kitty and not home with our family.

The following week, I had to bring Socks to the vet for her spaying surgery.  (This is a condition for adopting from the shelter.)  Kiddo was understandably nervous, but the next day, we picked Socks up and she came home with a shaved belly but otherwise no worse for the wear.  (She also was the first cat I've ever had - and I've had dozens - who actually liked taking medicine.  Then again, she is one of those "OMG it has been FOREVER since I've had any food and I'm STARVING - FEED ME NOW!!!!!" kinds of kitties, so perhaps the medicine was just another kind of "food" in her opinion.)  When I went to drop Socks off (without Kiddo in tow), I inquired about Mittens.  I feared the worst - to learn that she'd been put down - and was happily surprised to hear that she was once again improving and might even be cleared for adoption again.  !!!  I shared that news with Hubby and that night, we decided that if Mittens was made available for adoption, we would adopt her again.  We were prepared to have a special needs kitty, after all, we have a special needs kid.  I let them know the next morning that we wanted Mittens, and over the next week we kept in touch with the staff, hearing nothing but cautiously optimistic news.

Then, this past Monday, I got a call from the hospital.  The unbelievable had happened - Mittens was better and cleared for adoption.  She still had softer than average stool, but it was no longer diarrhea and there were no hygiene issues.  If we were still interested, she could be ours!  I gleefully texted Hubby the update and we did internal happy dances all afternoon. We told Kiddo the news that night at dinner, and she was flipping out.  If one kitten was the Best Thing Ever, then two kittens?  Wow!!!!!  She could hardly fathom!  The next morning, Kiddo and I went over to the vet's and she was reunited with Mittens while I did the paperwork for the adoption.

Once the paperwork was complete, they put her on the schedule to be spayed on Thursday and then we were going to be able to bring her home today (Saturday).

Kiddo spent the next 48 hours in a state of elation.  She talked endlessly about how she was going to have TWO kittens.  She preemptively nicknamed them "Double Trouble" and told everyone - and I mean everyone; the check-out lady at the library, the cashier at Wegmans, random passers-by in the locker room at swimming lessons - the story.  It was fantastic to see her excitement - an excitement that Hubby and I shared.  Plans were made for how Mittens would spend the first week sequestered in Kiddo's room while Socks would continue having the run of the house (much to our older cat's ongoing chagrin).  We already had the special kitty litter to use during her post-surgical recuperation.  The shelter staff had sent us home that Tuesday with two bags of the kitten chow Mittens had been eating, so we could acclimate Socks to it (we'd decided that what one cat in the house ate, all of them would eat, because this is a house, not a feline restaurant).  We were set.  There was much rejoicing on Facebook when I shared the good news.  I'd decided I was going to go ahead with my long-overdue return to blogging post, A Tale of Two Kitties.  I had been reluctant to post it when it was a story about how Kiddo's heart had broken with the Mittens saga, but who doesn't love a story with a happy ending? 

My phone rang as Kiddo and I were driving home from a friend's house on Thursday afternoon.  I saw it was the vet and picked up, expecting it to be the update on how Mittens did with the surgery.  It was, but not what I'd ever wanted to hear. 

The adoption specialist, who'd been one of the primary staff members we'd been dealing with since the morning of Kiddo's birthday back in May when we first met Mittens, was on the line.  She was crying.  I knew before she even said it that the really, really worst, the unimaginable worst, had happened.

Mittens died during surgery.

I was in tears.  I tried to stay calm and quiet, because Kiddo was right there in the back seat.  We pulled into the garage and I turned off the car as I listened to the news.  Kiddo noticed I was crying and asked me what was wrong.  I got off the phone and turned around to face her.  I pulled her into my lap and told her.

I didn't think heartbreak could get worse than what we'd already gone through.  Of course that wasn't the case.  Now today, instead of driving to the vet to bring Mittens home, we are going to pick out a memorial stone for her to put in our garden next to the memorial stone for Swimmy, Kiddo's goldfish.  I realize that in the grand scheme of things, this is a small tragedy - a kitten who lived less than four months.  But to Kiddo, this is a very big tragedy indeed.  She loved Mittens with all her heart, and this loss is as big to her as it could be. 

 This is the MIttens angel Kiddo made, to remember her by.

Mittens the awesome kitten, March 26 - July 12, 2012.  Rest in peace, you are forever in our hearts.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Last call!

Here we are, late in the evening of the last night of my thirties.  When I wake up (hopefully not before 6am like I have the past several days), I'll be 40.  Egads.  I wish I could come up with something pithy or reflective or remotely meaningful to share.  I mean, I spent a bit of time reflecting on the past decade as I went about my errands and housework today.  There certainly were some big highlights - becoming a mom; becoming an aunt (several times over); milestone wedding anniversaries (10th and 15th); the passing of my last remaining living grandparent; selling our first house, buying our second and moving; rejoining the workforce after spending most of the decade as a stay-at-home mom; heck, even being on Jeopardy - but right now?  There's just one thing that is on my mind, and it is this:

I am fairly certain that we have a yeti living in our basement.  I have proof.  Proof in the vast expanses of greyish fur that amass in the collection canister of my vacuum cleaner every time I use it, like earlier this afternoon.  I mean, it just seems obvious that such insane amounts of what is clearly animal fur would come from a gigantic, highly hirsute source like this:

than from something that's smaller than a breadbox (though admittedly pretty fuzzy) like this:

Yep, that's all I've got for this evening, my yeti-in-the-cellar theory.  Clearly, old age has already begun fading away what few brain cells I have left.  (Also, it's 10pm and I spiked my milk with mudslide mix at dinner, so there's that.  Living la vida loca, for sure.)  Before I toddle off to bed, I'd like to make one last plea:

Won't you please, pretty please, with sugar and sprinkles and a cherry on top, please help me make my fortieth birthday wish come true?  You can read about it here.  (I know I've been asking with every post lately, but the good news is that tomorrow is the last day I can bug you about it...)  If you would please join me in doing 40 Good Things and leave me a comment letting me know what you did, I'll be the happiest 40 year old birthday girl ever tomorrow!  Thanks!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

A bird in the hand...

Kiddo and I went with some friends to a nearby park this morning that has a trail frequented by wild birds as well as people. (How crazy is this weather - it was in the 50s here today! Outdoors in a light jacket in late November? Woohoo!) The reason we went to this particular trail was because we'd heard if you bring some bird seed with you, put some in your hand, hold your arm out and stay very still and quiet, you can be a human bird feeder!

Our friends had done this before, and told us if you try this in the winter, the chickadees positively swarm your hand to devour the seeds. Today's chickadees seemed pretty well-fed, as the trail was quite busy with human bird feeders. (We also saw cardinals, jays, woodpeckers and finches, but only the chickadees ventured onto our hands.) We weren't exactly swarmed, but we each had birds land on our hands a few times. We will definitely go back in the winter to feed the birds again!

(PS - Another plea as we're now just 17 days away from my birthday.... won't you please help me make my 40th birthday wish come true? Thanks so very much!!)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

At least *someone* enjoys leaf management

(Though I will say I am mighty happy to own a leafblower.  It makes the chore a LOT easier.)

PS - Please consider checking out this post and helping make my upcoming 40th birthday wish come true!  Only a month and a day until the big 4-0!  (**gulp**) Thanks!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Next year, I'm coating our jack o'lantern with cayenne

This past Saturday, we went to a local farm market to pick out this year's pumpkin.

We came home and Kiddo and Hubby promptly got to work carving said pumpkin into this year's chosen design.  As we've long since established around this here blog, Heather does not do pumpkin guts.  This was the first year that Kiddo did the majority of the carving work herself (under Hubby's supervision, while I popped in and out every so often for a quick picture but otherwise kept well out of arm and nose's reach of the goings-on).

Kiddo was well pleased with her kitty jack o'lantern when we set it out on the front porch and lit it up for a test run Saturday night.

Yesterday afternoon, Kiddo and I attended a Fall Fun event for our local Girl Scout troops.  As we pulled into the driveway upon our return, I noticed something a bit off with her pumpkin......

Closer inspection revealed that some critter or critters had zombie-fied Kiddo's jack o'lantern by snacking on it quite thoroughly (they also removed and chewed on the tea light I'd left inside it overnight).  I didn't catch any such critter redhanded (or orange-mouthed), but my strongest suspicion points in the direction of our multitude of neighborhood squirrels.

Kiddo was upset, naturally, and immediately clamoring for a return trip to the farm market to get a second pumpkin.  This request was denied as we were now less than 6 hours away from Halloween (and last night was a school night to boot), the market was closed and, frankly, we weren't overly eager to drop some more green on another delectable squirrel treat.  By this morning, the other parts of Halloween (costumes! parade! party! Trick or Treating with friends!) had mitigated her disappointment at the jack o'lantern mutilation somewhat, and off she went to school.  I went out to clean up the pumpkin detritus around midmorning, and decided that there was, in fact, enough unspoiled pumpkin on the back half that technically someone could carve a second kitty face onto the other side.

I promptly looked around.  Turns out the only someone who was home and available for such a project around 11 on a Monday was me.  (Well, I mean, I could've asked the cat, but she lacks both the attention span and the opposable thumbs for such an undertaking, and then there's the extensive list of things she's managed to damage with her own sharp bits over the years - do I really want to be arming her with a pumpkin carver?)

Have I mentioned how much I detest pumpkin guts?  I am not kidding when I say I have a pathological aversion to them.  The smell and/or feel of the inside of a pumpkin can induce the urge to vomit in me more than actually being vomited upon by another human being.  Seriously.  (Pumpkin seeds, on the other hand - delish! So long as someone else has cleaned them off and toasted them up.  Also, I love pumpkin bread, pumpkin pie, pumpkin muffins - as long as I don't have to touch or smell the raw ingredient in its most primal form.)

I feel that it is a pretty remarkable testament to my overwhelming love for my child that I sucked it up and did this:

 and a pretty remarkable testament to my willpower that I neither threw up nor fainted at any point while doing it.  (I kinda wanted to do both at a few points along the way.)  (And as to Hubby's reply text when I sent him the above picture, yes, they had scooped out most of the pumpkin guts before the first carving.  Most of them.  The pumpkin was a far cry from pristine inside, and being out on the porch in the cold made it extra-clammy.  Unless some of the clamminess came from squirrel spit, but really, does that make it better?)

That isn't to say that next year, I won't be sprinkling our jack o'lantern quite liberally with cayenne pepper before I set it on the porch.  I may love the kid enough to suffer the trauma of raw pumpkin meeting my hands and nose once, but I have no intentions of there being a sequel.  I'd rather have to deal with actual zombies on my front porch then try to repair a zombie-fied jack o'lantern again, thankyouverymuch.

(Oh, and I am tired and punchy enough right now to point out that when lit with the slightly-gnawed tea light tonight, in the pitch black darkness that is 7pm in our parts this time of year, the kitty cat was glowing mightily in its newly carved facial area, but also casting light out of the rather gaping hole in its backside.  I believe there's an expression about blowing sunshine and one's posterior regions........)

Happy Halloween from me and mine to you and yours!  (Kiddo, for the record, was one of several Hermione Grangers tromping the grounds of school in today's Halloween parade.  She was the only one with a Crookshanks with her, however.)

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Is this why I liked The Silence of the Lambs?

My kid, at the advanced age of eight, no longer easily complies with hand-holding in public.  Mind you, I only ever reach for her hand in specific situations - navigating a very crowded, public place where we might easily become separated (after all, she is the human version of Dug from Up: squirrel!), or crossing a heavily trafficked parking lot or street (where again, her distractability can be detrimental to her survival), that sort of thing.  These days, she will squirm and squirm and squirm, along with whining and whining and whining, to get me to let go.  As a compromise, she'll sometimes offer to hold on to my wrist or forearm or for me to hold her elbow or something.

On a recent such occasion, as I was desperately trying to grab hold of some part of Kiddo while she darted away into Certain Mortal Peril, a song from childhood popped into my head.  I recalled it as being sung by Bert from Sesame Street, and I sang a snippet of it to the kid.  I couldn't remember it as clearly as, say, C is for Cookie or I Love Trash, so a few days later, I looked it up on Youtube while Kiddo and I were waiting for the school bus to arrive.  I found it right away, and we both watched; her for the first time ever and me for the first time in several decades....

Please take a moment and watch it if you didn't already. Do you remember watching it as a small child?  Are you as unsettled as I was?  I mean..........*shudder*, right?  After all, this is SESAME STREET for crying out loud - how could it be so disturbing???

As I said, I remembered this from my own childhood.  (Not sure it is too surprising that I never saw this clip re-aired during Kiddo's Sesame Street watching phase).  (Also, my memory of it being sung by Bert was actually correct. Bert did the record album - remember record albums? - version and my sister and I had all the Sesame Street albums between the two of us, so score one for my rapidly aging brain cells for remembering that.)   I do NOT remember being the slightest bit put off by this clip.  I remember thinking it was, in fact, funny.  My sister and I would act out this song with each other (and with props standing in for the body parts.)  ACK - see?  There's where I'm disturbed now.  Body. Parts.  Maurice the Muppet is REMOVING THE FEMALE MUPPET'S BODY PARTS, y'all.


I know that there are far more disturbing things on television these days.  (Well, it seems like there are far more disturbing things everywhere these days.)  I don't let Kiddo watch, say, Dexter or Supernatural or any of the CSIs or L&Os.  But..... but......  this is SESAME STREET.  Holy moly.  Watching this now, as an almost-middle-aged woman, I found it way more disturbing than amusing.  I was especially squicked out by the tooth (obviously required for the lyrics' rhymability) and the way he is fiddling nonchalantly with the pile of body parts he has just removed.

So, is it just me?  Is this unsettling to anyone else?  I wonder if this is where my great enjoyment of things like The Silence of the Lambs and Supernatural comes from.....  At any rate, Kiddo wasn't put off by it one bit.  As a matter of fact, a few days later, as we stood on the porch waiting for the bus to turn up our street, she asked me if we could watch it again.  I declined, though she persisted.  Until she saw a squirrel run across the yard, anyhow.  (I wish I were kidding.  I'm not.)


In other news, stay tuned for a really awesome giveaway that I plan to do in the coming weeks.  I can't give you the details yet, but I can show you a relevant trailer:

And in other other news, please do read the post and consider helping me out with my 40th birthday wish.  I'd really appreciate it!

Friday, September 30, 2011

My 40th birthday wish

As it so happens, I am now 39 and three quarters.  (That is, if adults still said their age the way kids do, but that stopped being the in thing somewhere around age 13, didn't it.....)  Suffice it to say, then, that I'm in the sunset of my 30s.  Well, more like the mid-late evening of my 30s.  If my 30s were a day, I'd be in bed already by now.

Now, in a perfect world, I'd be celebrating my 40th birthday by sitting in the front row, center seat of the theater for this.  But, it isn't a perfect world, and that isn't going to happen.  I mean, not only is my birthday during one of the craziest times of the year (11 days before Christmas), but this year, my birthday is on a Wednesday.  Also? Broadway is about six hours away from my house by car, and nowadays, the cost of one ticket is more than it used to cost my entire family to see a Broadway show back when I was a kid.  (Which, granted, was way back in the Olden Days, especially to hear Kiddo talk about it.)  I don't even want to know how much a front row ticket would be.  Probably way more than I spend on groceries for our family for an entire month.

So, clearly this is not a perfect world.  (A fact which has been made abundantly clear over and over again in the past year, le sigh.)  That's why I've come up with an alternate plan to celebrate my birthdayweekmonth.  Best of all, it's something that YOU, dear reader, can help me with!  So, win-win, right?  I mean, I just know you were wondering what on earth you could get me for my big 4-0.  Right?  (Humor me and nod enthusiastically, if you don't mind.  Thanks!)

Here's what I'm hoping we can do for my birthday: I want to have a worldwide celebration* of helping others.  Paying it forward.  Doing good deeds.  If I can get 40 people to do 1 Good Thing between now and my actual 40th birthday, that would be just about the best present ever.  (Or 20 people to do 2 Good Things.  Or 10 to do 4.  I'm not picky.)

It doesn't have to be a BIG Good Thing, either.  I'm not asking y'all to turn into Mother Teresa/Ghandi/Ryan Gosling here.  Just, you know, do something good.  Spend an hour or two helping at a soup kitchen or food pantry.  Pay the toll for the guy behind you on your way to work.  Offer to watch the kids for that mom who never gets a night off.  Stop by a nursing home and visit with someone who is lonely.  Overtip the waitress at the diner.  Mow your neighbor's lawn or rake their leaves or shovel their snow (hey, I live in upstate NY - we'll have snow before I'm 39 and 5/6ths).  Send your mom some flowers.  Make a point of looking everyone in the eye and smiling at them for one day.  (Everyone - this is harder than you'd think.  Believe me, I've tried.)  You get my drift.

Now, I've been fighting a losing battle against the interwebz all day.  So, I'm not going to attempt to do a Mr. Linky thingamabob because then I might just break the internet once and for all, and I don't want that on my record.  Instead, if you do do a Good Thing in honor of me getting old (heh heh heh, I just said "do do") (what? I am getting old, not mature), please comment here, if you would, and let me know.  I haven't broken my blog comment email notifications yet, so that'll work.  If I get to 40 things by my big 4-0 on December 14th, I'll be beyond thrilled.  And since it is my birthmonth, instead of my usual birthweek, I'd be beyond thrilled if we got to 40 good things by December 31.  Like I said, I'm really not picky.

So, there you have it.  What I'd really love to get for my 40th birthday.  Please consider playing along - it would mean more than you know.

*(Worldwide could happen - my stat meter tells me of blog hits from all over the world!  They aren't all from weirdos searching for the word "boobs" either.  I know real, lovely people who live as far away as Australia who read my blog....)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

This is my song, oh God of all the nations,
A song of peace for lands afar and mine.
This is my home, the country where my heart is;
Here are my hopes, my dreams, my sacred shrine.
But other hearts in other lands are beating,
With hopes and dreams as true and high as mine.

My country’s skies are bluer than the ocean,
And sunlight beams on cloverleaf and pine.
But other lands have sunlight too and clover,
And skies are everywhere as blue as mine.
Oh hear my song, oh God of all the nations,
A song of peace for their land and for mine.

May truth and freedom come to every nation;
may peace abound where strife has raged so long;
that each may seek to love and build together,
a world united, righting every wrong;
a world united in its love for freedom,
proclaiming peace together in one song.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

So, I've been a real P.O.S. blogger...

... but not the P.O.S. you might be thinking of - no, I mean a Prisoner of Summer, as coined by my friend Ash last year. I posted before Armageddon (and, btw, did you hear it's been rescheduled? Apparently now Armageddon is back on for sometime in October) and then poof, three months went by and here we are in September.

So, to do a recap for those who might be interested........

In May, we went to Walt Disney World for Kiddo's 8th birthday. Our trip coincided with Star Wars Weekends, which had two thirds of the Smith family extremely excited. As for me, I enjoy SW all right - I mean, I've seen all the movies more than once and have a good grasp of the fundamentals, but I still had to be corrected by my second grader - "No, Mom, that's not a Storm Trooper, that's a Clone Trooper. Sheesh." A girl after her Dad's own heart.....

(Immediately prior to this picture, Chewbacca gave me a hug. Following this picture, I spent the rest of the day plucking long, coarse Wookiee hairs out of the inch-thick layer of SPF 60 and sweat that coated my body after waiting in line for close to an hour in baking, steamy, central Florida sun. Seriously, Chewie sheds like crazy.)

The kid took part in the Jedi Training Academy, and managed to successfully battle Darth Maul. (She'd previously been very nervous about facing anyone other than Darth Vader, so when we found out her group was getting Darth Maul instead, I was giving even odds that she would bail. Her Jedi strength and courage stood her well, though, because she did it. Our home video of the duel has me cheering wildly and audibly from across the area from where Hubby was standing, which cracked me up when I heard it. It was just one time when I uttered my signature WOOHOO over the course of the trip.)

Other Star Wars fun included riding the new and improved, just reopened Star Tours several times (it is SO much cooler than it was before, though I did get a bit motion sick a couple of times) and waiting in line so the kid could meet-n-greet all sorts of SW characters.

(Several of the other women with whom Kiddo and I waited in line were gushing about how dreeeeeamy pre-Darthified Anakin Skywalker was. He spent a good four minutes chatting with Kiddo as they grumbled in line behind us - apparently the Force was stronger with the 8 year old than it was with the cougars......)

We did do other, non-nerdtastic sorts of things while we were there too, of course. Kiddo wore her official WDW "IT'S MY BIRTHDAY" pin for the entire week leading up to and then the days after her birthday, so she was fĂȘted most lavishly everywhere from the restaurants to the parks to the birthday serenade by the Dapper Dans, the barbershop quartet that performs in the Magic Kingdom, right in front of Cinderella's castle. So, clearly she is a girl after her mother's heart as well, since we all know how much I love to celebrate my birthweek!

(Only eight more years until that driving picture becomes a reality - GULP. Kiddo most gleefully pointed out to me that she is "halfway to a driver's license" and I immediately felt twenty new silvery highlights sproing out on my scalp at the thought.)

The next picture was taken at Teppan Edo, which is the kid's favorite restaurant at Epcot. Towards the end of our (awesome) meal, the staff came in with this hat and did a whole birthday song and routine. (This happened at just about every restaurant we went to, but not with a complimentary chapeau.) We had to preserve the hat to bring home with us. Try going through security with one of these sometime...

(Poor Gramma, who came from Tampa for a few days. This was the first time she'd experienced the Mad Tea Party spinning teacup ride with us. She wisely opted out when I did after my traditional one turn, and we watched from solid, nonmoving ground as Hubby took Kiddo for a second whirl.)

The Padawan went pirate, thanks to Captain Jack Sparrow's pirate tutorial:

We always enjoy the scenery at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, and Kiddo spent quite a while sketching the critters on the savanna from her vantage point on our balcony -

For her actual birthday, which was the sixth day of our trip, we surprised Kiddo by taking her to the luau at the Polynesian. She got to go up on stage twice to do the hula (see if you can pick her out... she's the one in the Hawaiian print......) and also cross off one of her bucket list items: to drink a drink out of a coconut. Pretty good to have ticked off an item on her bucket list by the tender age of eight!

Since we did pull her out of school for four days, Kiddo had homework that she had to do each day in the hotel room -

So, that was Disney World. In June, Hubby and I decided it was time to let Kiddo dip her toe into the world of internet communication. To this end, he set up an account for her via a texting app on her iPod Touch that she can use to send and receive texts from a very elite group (Daddy, Mommy and one of her grandmothers at this point). She is further restricted by only being able to text where there is wifi, so though she'll text right up until the bus rolls up -

As soon as it does, she hands over the iPod and goes off to a texting-free day.

Also in June, I started my new job. It requires me to dress up -

but other than not being able to wear yoga pants and my Birks to work, it is an awesome gig. The people at the church are super nice, everyone has been very welcoming and seems happy to have me there, and I'm so glad I found this job. So, woohoo for being back in the working world!

The weekend after school got out, Kiddo and I went on our annual Smith Chicks Road Trip to NJ. We spent one day at my aunt and uncle's house, which is on Lake Hopatcong and included fishing, swimming, kayaking, picking water lilies, throwing balls for my aunt's and mom's dogs, and going for a ride on the lake with some of her cousins - my uncle even let the kids take a turn steering the boat. (Kiddo's turn was rather abbreviated, as she was an enthusiastic but dangerous driver.)

We also went down the shore for a day with my mom, both of my sisters and their kids, and while we didn't have a Snooki sighting, we did encounter a massive beaching of millions and millions of baby jellyfish. SO gross. (That's what Kiddo and my niece are holding up for the camera in that one shot.) I got stung a few times as I stood waist-deep in the water on boogie-boarding patrol, in which I was on the lookout for any child related to me coming off their board in the water and going under. After getting out of the water, I noticed what I first assumed was a splotchy sunburn on my calves, but turned out to be jellyfish stings. Um, OW.)

Other fun things we did this summer included dogsitting a few times for Barkley, aka the Fluffy Pup, playdates galore (note to self: the joy experienced by kids in the three minutes it takes them to throw the entire jumbo-sized laundry basket full of water balloons you've arduously spent the better part of an hour filling, covering yourself and the walls, floor and ceiling in a five foot radius around you with water as you did? NOT worth it), trips to the zoo, and the like...

(I thought I was taking the kid to walk the dog. Apparently, I was actually taking the cat for a walk with the dog.......)

In July, as we have since the very first movie opened a decade ago, my BFF and I saw the last Harry Potter movie. This time, in IMAX 3D, obviously. We got there early enough that we were the FIRST ones into the theater. Woohoo!!

Other momentous achievements included Kiddo learning how to blow proper bubbles with proper bubble gum (taught by her mom). Here's her first-ever actual bubble:

Kiddo also mastered her two-wheeler sans training wheels (though with much protective gear - at her insistence). Bubbles and the proper way to sing Bohemian Rhapsody may fall under my purview, but biking was all Dad. Well, up until the point when she was confident enough to go pedaling around the neighborhood, and I was forced to hop on my own bike and go pedaling along with her. Me on a bike? Yeah, not pretty. I haven't had a heart attack yet, though I was secretly a teensy bit relieved when Hubby came in from the garage one night and mentioned my front tire had gone completely flat. He has since repaired it though, so my reprieve is over.

Kiddo even got Grandpa to go for a spin with her when my folks came up from Jersey for a visit -

I have been extremely fortunate to have Kiddo's grandparents watch her for the majority of the summer when I was working, and friends who hosted her for playdates for the majority of the times when her grandparents weren't available. There was one day when I did wind up doing a "Take Your Daughter to Work Day", but as we were the only ones in the building, it wasn't a big deal (also - I had talked to my boss about it beforehand and she was cool with it). Sadly, the busy work type tasks I'd saved up for her, thinking they'd keep her occupied for a good hour-hour and a half, Kiddo knocked out in a cool 20 minutes. I wound up raiding the Sunday School classrooms for arts and crafts things to keep her occupied while I worked.

Kiddo was given her very first American Girl doll, whom she named Isabelle Hermione, by her godmother for her birthday -

We went on our first overnight camping trip with a group of people from our church to Stony Brook State Park. This is us midway through a hike of the insane gorge trails in the park -

and kiddo playing by one of the waterfalls we'd hiked our way down to:

The hike down wasn't nearly as bad as the hike back up the gorge. It is a 400 foot change in elevation, and several hundred helpful-yet-killer stairs. It's like going to San Fransisco, I'd imagine, but with less Golden Gate Bridge and fog and more sweat and mosquitoes. Overall, we had a good bit of fun - s'mores! playing in the stream! potluck campout supper! - but between the insane amount of noise overnight and general sleeping conditions in our campsite, the bathrooms that were so gross I refused to shower or to wash Kiddo off in them, and the horrific storm that was due to arrive overnight the second night, we opted to pack up and head for the comfort, cleanliness and quiet of our own home instead of sticking it out the second night and then trying to pack up in the downpour the last morning.

The not-so-fun part of summer hit us a few weeks ago, when Kiddo needed to have eye surgery again. This time, it was just one eye, which was good, but her post-surgery recovery period was a lot rougher. It took the doctors three escalations of her pain medicine before she was feeling well enough that we could take her home. By the next day, though, she was rallying from her sickbed on the family room couch -

(that's Domino, a get-well gift from one of the ladies at our church) and within a few days, she was feeling well enough to be chafing at the total movement and activity restrictions that she was under for the past two weeks. A rousing game of checkers was about the most excitement she was allowed.

(Side note: I got into an interesting discussion on Facebook about letting kids win. I don't, for the record, but Grandma apparently did because Kiddo complained quite loudly about how she always beats Grandma but never beats me. Hearing the news that I was the fourth grade checker champion back in the 70s didn't do much to mitigate her despair.)
As you might imagine, having a major sensory seeker-type SPD kiddo be forced to be utterly still for an extended period of time has led to one extremely disregulated kid. When the restrictions were lifted two days ago, Kiddo went nuts (and not entirely in a good way). She had a lengthy playdate this afternoon, and we're going to do some bike rides and running around the park with our canine house guest tomorrow and Monday (weather permitting...), and hopefully by the first day of school on Tuesday, she'll be closer to her normal. It sure doesn't make a terribly good first impression to have a kid who can't keep still and can't focus.....

So, that just about brings us up to speed. Whew. I'd say I'm looking forward to things quieting down now that school is starting in mere days, but then I think about what I'm doing this school year -

- co-Chair of the school PTSA
- class mom
- 3rd grade volunteer for several school programs and events
- Brownie troop leader
- working three mornings a week at my paid job (woohoo!)
- church choir member
- Sunday school teacher

and suddenly, it doesn't seem like the fall is going to bring me much more peace, quiet or free time after all!

But, I promise I'll be blogging more regularly now that I'm no longer a P.O.S. Hopefully there are still folks out there reading..................