Thursday, November 29, 2007
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Saturday, November 24, 2007
Interestingly, Phoenix seems to be taking it hard; for all that they fought, they were constant companions for almost fifteen years. He's showing the classic signs of cat grief. He's wandering the house aimlessly. He wants a lot of affection and reassurance. He's eating less. He's listless and can't be bothered to get up for things for which he'd normally be beside himself with enthusiasm.
When we first got home from the vet, I couldn't bear to bring in the empty carrier, so we left it in the car. I brought it in last night and let Phoenix take a look at it. He jumped up excitedly when he saw it, like maybe she was in there, and seemed perplexed that it was empty. After giving it a really cautious sniff (normally he'd climb right in, but it probably smells like dying cat), he walked over and stared intently at the spot she used to lie in. Where is she? I could almost hear him thinking. Why isn't she coming back?
We've been talking a lot about whether cats understand death, or that they're dying. My personal opinion is that they don't have any long-term awareness of death, but that they do know when they're dying. I'm almost certain Cassie understood, that day at the vet, that she was going to die. I think Phoenix might know that she died; I'm sure she smelled sick or wrong somehow. But I doubt he has any deep understanding of that fact; if he does or did know it, he probably forgets from time to time. He's probably as much perplexed as anything else about why his long-time companion and frenemy disappeared.
Still, I feel bad for him when he wanders looking lost. I walked up to Mud Bay Granary this afternoon and got him a little care package - good catnip, some tasty snacks (bonita flakes - thanks for the recommendation, Jacki. He loves them!). He'll recover, but he's definitely feeling sad.
Last night I washed the towels from her carrier and the clothes she soiled at the vet and the blankets that covered her chair. We put away the sad, empty cat carrier. Maddie, her kitty sister, is slowly moving to take over Cassie's prime real estate inside the house - I found her last night sitting under the hutch in front of Cassie's favorite heating vent. Max is aware that something's up but not terribly affected by it, other than to perhaps be a little cuddlier than normal. Brett and I are talking about her without anyone losing their composure.
Things are moving ahead, minus one nose in the nightly nose count at chez Zalkan.
March 4, 1992 - November 23, 2007
This is a hard post to write. But I've been scribbling on paper for the last two days and I want to get it all down. Cassie deserves that. Here's a look at the life of our oldest kitty, who passed away the morning after Thanksgiving.
Cassie came to me as a one year old, desperate from having spent three days in the pound after her previous family gave her up for "allergies." She leapt into my arms, literally, and begged to come home promising to be the best and most devoted cat ever. When I got her home, she crawled under the bed and didn't emerge for three months, except after midnight when she would sneak up on the bed and curl up with me, as long as I didn't notice. So much for those promises. And thus began my relationship with the quirkiest and most neurotic but loving cat I've ever known.
Who was she?
Cassie was a zany, whacky girl. No one chased invisible creatures who weren't there around the apartments we lived in like she did. Flat Cassie, poised low to pounce on a ribbon or a toy, was of legendary cuteness. She had the best party trick ever, sitting up on her hind legs to catch a paper ball neatly with her front paws. She seemed to find many things amusing, unlike her almost humorless brother Phoenix.
Cassie was socially inept. For half of her life, she was so painfully shy that some of my friends didn't believe she existed. She hid for hours whenever we had visitors, only to venture out, maybe, in the last half hour to do a crazy, look-what-I-can-do routine that was her version of helping me entertain. But as she hit midlife, something loosened in her and she became visibly more sociable, greeting guests at the door, accepting petting, and begging for handouts. She blossomed.
Cassie was gentle with people, and ferocious with cats. She never deliberately scratched a person in her whole life, and her greatest joy was to be held or petted. She hated her brother, though, the one who she was supposed to be a friend to, and she beat him mercilessly at every opportunity. They, too, mellowed over time, and came to coexist fairly peacefully in the last few years, especially when thrown in with Brett's cats -- "us vs. them" proving a powerful inducement to peace. She was a fiercesome foe of moths, often carrying her latest prey up to our bed to show us. And once, in her fifteenth year, just months before she died, she caught herself a bird. I was proud of her - how could I not be? My wobbly, nutjob, geriatric girl had the chutzpah to take up hunting so late in life. Good for her.
Cassie was more clever than she got credit for. Clever enough to hide from a burglar when her brother stupidly fled out the open window he left behind and got lost for four days. Clever enough to open and empty a dresser drawer, climb in, and pull it shut behind her. Clever enough to realize that traveling across country by car is more pleasant when you ride on the dashboard and can see the scenery. Clever enough that I will go to my grave convinced that she communicated telepathically with me twice, in moments of great need.
Cassie was a lovebug. Every night for 14 years, she spent the entire night sleeping on me - either directly on my chest or under my arm like a stuffed rabbit. On my favorite nights, she'd turn belly up and wrap her paws around my arm, clutching me to her. We were spoons, purring away into the night. She gradually eased off of our nightly routine when I was pregnant, disturbed by the unfamiliar smells or the way my stomach would -- horror of horrors -- sometimes kick her. She viewed my stomach and later the baby with great and unremitting suspicion.
Now that she's gone, hardly any of the cats want to sit on my lap. While she was here, it was all I could do to get a moment to myself.
Cassie was peevish. When Sofie arrived, Cassie initially rallied but soon was displaced and disspirited, moreso than the other cats, who all managed to adjust. We saw less of her at night; the all-night-nursing phase was tough on her. She began to act out, pooping around the house at will. Once this began, we actively discouraged her from coming upstairs at night. She still showed up sometimes, but mostly she slept in the living room, on her favorite chair.
Cassie was an incredible pain in the neck. At least in the last year she was, and it was sometimes difficult to be nice to her. She pooped on the dining room table during dinner, she pooped on the bed in the middle of the night during a struggle. She whined. She sprayed the walls. She stole the food off our plates so aggressively that we could hardly eat. She ate directly off the baby, climbing right up into her high chair to take things off her bib and tray and even off her face now and then. We got to locking her in the basement when we had people over for dinner to spare ourselves the struggle and potential embarrassment - nothing puts a damper on a dinner party like a cat relieving herself on your table. We put her outside when she pooped. Sometimes we yelled at her. She was infuriating. She was crazy and sick. I wish we'd yelled less. I really do.
On the dashboard on our drive to Seattle.
Cassie was sickly. Over the last four years, my formerly portly girl, once so heavy that her belly swung with each step, struggled with recurring health issues. First too much thyroid, then not enough, then too much again. Then her intestines started to thicken in a way that suggested cancer. Then she got confused and surly, lost her bathroom training. How much of that was protest of the baby and how much was sickness? We'll never know. She ate ravenously but lost pound after pound. At the end, our once 12-pound tubby weighed five pounds and couldn't make her back legs obey her. When the doctor told us her time was up, we already knew. Her body temperature had dropped beyond the point of hypothermia and she was severely dehydrated. Her abdomen was one big mass. It was over.
She and I had a short reprieve at the end as we waited at the vet's office for Brett to find a babysitter and join us. Alone in an exam room for a little over an hour, I sandwiched her between two hot water bottles, wrapped her in a blanket, and held her while we talked over her life. For a while she slept, lulled by the warmth into a long deep nap she'd never have taken at the doctor's office if she wasn't so sick. When she woke up, I told her that now she got one hundred kisses. While I gave them to her, she wagged her tail weakly, happy again, and peed all over my leg. "I guess she really got relaxed," said the vet. I didn't mind. Then Brett arrived and the moment was really there.
One injection first, a strong sedative, and ten minutes to hold her while it took effect. "We're sorry about the baby," Brett told her. We jokingly told her to go towards the light -- there were moths to catch in the light. It's time to go, I told her, don't worry about us, just go. I think that's the last thing she heard - she went limp immediately after that and never stirred again. The second shot was almost immediately effective, and she was gone.
With Cassie gone, we can uncover the chairs whose upholstery she had a tendency to destroy with her "accidents." We can sit in "her chair" without facing endless protests. We can leave food unattended on the table, or the island, or in the trash. We can open the doors and gates that barricaded her from rooms she liked to do mischief to. Already the house feels cleaner, more open, more manageable. And more empty.
In one fell swoop, I told Brett, our lives have gotten much easier and much less rich.
"I hope she comes back to haunt us," Brett said this morning. Who knows, maybe such things can happen. I had an apartment once where the former occupant told me there was a ghost cat. I always liked that idea and would talk to it sometimes, even though I never saw it. A friend of mine swore he saw the ghost of his dog once. Maybe Cassie will come back to perch on her chair or sit with us in the middle of the night.
But I hope not; I hope she's not restless. I prefer to think of her off somewhere with lots of big, juicy moths, where there are no babies or brothers, and where she sits down to three square meals of people food a day - meat, potatoes, vegetables and dessert. And all the milk she can drink.
Her last picture, just a couple months ago.
Goodbye Cassie. You were a good girl. We love you and we miss you terribly.
Thursday, November 22, 2007
We are, once again, serving a Whole Foods precooked Thanksgiving meal, meaning they did most of the work and all we have to do is pop a few things in the oven around 1:30, heat them up, put them on platters and in nice bowls so you'd almost think we made them from scratch, and put them on the table. You can't beat that for a nice, low-key Thanksgiving.
Next year, we'll probably cook it ourselves - I love the whole ritual and kind of miss doing it -- but for this year and last year, with a little one underfoot, it's been a lifesaver.
Last year's photoessay nonwithstanding, here's a quick list of the top things I'm thankful for this year:
- My wonderful family - my funny, goofy, clever little girl who lights up my life every day, my funny, goofy, clever husband who I adore. I have moments nearly every day when I just can't believe my luck.
- Our extended family - it's been a good year for visits with the family; I'm grateful Mom and Dad are nearby and always willing to go out for pancakes with Sofie and me, I'm grateful Art has been to our house several times to see his granddaughter, I'm grateful for two visits with Dana and Marilyn, and that Uncle Ira made the long trip to see us. We're hoping all of you and your families are having a great day today.
- Good old friends - whatever worries I had about the arrival of a baby changing my relationships with my closest friends have turned out to be so unfounded. I feel closer to my friends than ever; without exception they've all embraced the new creature in our lives and made her a part of the fun. I don't know what I'd do without you.
- Good new friends - one of the things I'm most grateful for is the way this new community of moms and babies that we've been folded into. Between Listening Mothers and PEPS, I've found a wonderful support system and made some very good friends. Sofie has playmates and I've got people to commiserate with when things are difficult or share worries and questions with.
- Health, comfort, and wellbeing - it's really driven home to me how lucky we are. We're healthy. We live in a nice home. Brett has a great job that's steady and enjoyable. We love the city we live in. We have enough to eat. We have access to adequate healthcare. We don't worry about where the next meal/paycheck/healthcare visit is going to come from. We have friends. Our families are, for the most part, in similar circumstances. We are so, so, so lucky. It's a good day to remember that.
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
All that weekend work meant that I could concentrate on just the finer-tuning stuff this week during Sofie's naps. A half hour a day scrubbing some part of the kitchen means that now it's REALLY clean in there - I've washed all the counters, cabinets, cleaned the fridge out enough to hold our turkey and trimmings, cleaned the stove, swept, vacuumed, and mopped the floors, cleaned the windows -- everything.
Yesterday was laundry day. Today was floors day. And now I'm sitting on the couch preparing to read a book for the next hour while Sofie naps, while my glistening-clean floors dry and I bask in the knowledge that pretty much everything is done. No frantic running around deep cleaning the house tonight. Even the closets are organized. All the old phone books have been recycled. The dishes we need for tomorrow are clean and ready.
Hallelujah! I love those times when attempting to be organized actually works out.
All this said, I'm tempting fate here and probably just begging for our old, infirm cat to have some kind of biological explosion all over the dining room tonight, leaving me with a frantic last-minute mess to clean in the morning.
Monday, November 19, 2007
Molly and Kate came over on Friday to play, which was great after being cooped up sick for almost the whole week. In this picture, they're both concentrating on Sofie's animal train, still one of the most popular toys in the house. (Thank you again to Aunt Dana, who picked this out last year for Christmas!)
Sofie's modeling her new stripey tights too. She's elf-ilicious.
Thursday, November 15, 2007
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
I'm at the end of day one and vacillating between wishing I was dead and having brief moments of being able to eat a cracker or drink a sip of water.
And the thing is? I know this is just the first of many, many, many toddler and kid vomiting-incidents that one or both of us will also catch from her. So I guess I better be ready for more of this in the future.
My husband said the other night, "Oh yeah, did I not tell you I was a big puker as a kid?"
Thursday, November 08, 2007
How do people with more than one kid do everything they have to do?
I'm a little tired. Taking two trips two weeks apart is not a good idea. But it'll be great to see my sister and the kids. I just wish there'd been another week between getting back from Hawaii and taking off for Texas.
And the nablopomo thing is going to suffer too because I just can't see a way to take my laptop with me on this trip tomorrow. I've got to carry:
- A carseat (and a big one)
- A stroller (gate check)
- A gym bag
- A baby
through the airport tomorrow while not losing my tickets, my sanity, or my cool. There's no way I can also deal with lugging the laptop around, getting it out for security, stowing it back away, and so on. So I'll do my best to get on my sister's computer from time to time and send a short entry out, but I might also be skipping a couple days of week two.That's all for today.
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
We get back on a plane Friday, just me and her, to go visit my sister in Texas. This is the first time Sofie and I have traveled without Brett; I'm going to do my best to travel extremely light and not check anything or carry too much. Since it's just a weekend trip, we should be able to keep it to just a backpack.
My head hurts too much to type much more. More tomorrow.
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
- Meow meow - said in a tiny high voice which is a riot
- Kak kak kak (duck)
- Ba ba ba (sheep)
- A vaguely oink-like sound that we've been hearing from a babysitter that she did months ago but haven't seen until now
- Kuk kuk kuk - (cluck) while pointing to a picture of a group of chickens. Said picture being on her father's boxer shorts. Which was just too funny; she did this in lieu of saying good morning to him one day.
She's also hug-crazy all of a sudden, which is a sweet development. Most of this is directed to us, but on occasion she hugs something else, particularly soft and squishy things - one of her stuffed toys, my big fuzzy sweater, and just now, Max. She also just stopped what she was doing to lick one of my toes (luckily I'm just out of the shower). Affection or curiosity? Who can say.
Monday, November 05, 2007
Now picture me walking by on the outside, noticing the little boy playing in the window and feeling all nostalgic about this simple childhood pleasure. How sweet! I remember doing that a lot as a kid. I'm feeling all warm and happy from the thought, until I get just close enough to see what he's doing.
B-I-T-C-H, he writes.
Then his little hand wipes it out, furtively, and he starts over. J-e-n-n-y i-s a b-i-t-c-h.
Wipewipewipe. Start over.
Oooooookay. Not so sweet and nostalgic. And I feel a little sorry, both for whoever Jenny is, and for this little guy, who's obviously suffered some kind of heartache or humiliation and is now taking his pint-sized revenge, anonymously, in the night.
Sunday, November 04, 2007
- A cat fight, clear as day, when two of our three cats were sitting right next to us, making it unlikely that the one who was left was fighting with himself;
- Barking dogs;
- Two men talking quietly to each other - couldn't make out their words but the conversational murmurs were pretty clear and happened several times.
This third one creeped me out enough that I came up to the first floor to see what was going on. I figured it was someone on the street - the monitor upstairs is near a window and we sometimes hear noises from people out on the sidewalk or next door through it. But when I opened the front door and took a look, everything was totally quiet. And of course, nothing was happening upstairs with the baby - dark and quiet, like always.
Our theory? We were picking up the baby monitor of the folks across the street who have a child just a few months older than Sofie. Either that or we were catching disembodied voices from the ether. Either way it was surprisingly disturbing.
Isn't Halloween over?
Saturday, November 03, 2007
Friday, November 02, 2007
Except for today, when I wasted half of her nap tracking down bizarre charges to my bank account, including some genealogy web site I was on five years ago that suddenly charged me $229 for an annual renewal of a membership I haven't held for ages. TWO HUNDRED DOLLARS! Who charges that? I just went and looked at their site to see what could possibly be worth that fee, but I can't find anything saying they charge that much. Anyhow, the nice folks in Utah who I called were very polite and quick to refund my money, so that's done. But yikes. Time to keep a closer eye on the bank statements.
So today's entry will be just a quick update. We're all doing well here - Sofie has now slept all the way through the night for eleven nights straight. Let me just repeat that.
In a row.
This may not sound remarkable unless you understand that this has not happened more than once or twice in the last eight months. She stopped sleeping well when she was six months old and it just got worse and worse, culminating in the great molar-eruption debacle which was September and October.
But it's over - it's over, dear god, it's over! At least for now. All of us are slowly coming back to life. Brett and I are getting healthy sleep with uninterrupted REM-cycles, for the first time in ages. I'm having dreams again! I no longer need a nap to get through the day. The purply smudges under Sofie's little eyes (oh, how that tugged at my heart!) are fading away into history and she's seeming happier and happier with each day that passes.
She's also napping alone, as I mentioned, which was our other long-running sleep issue. I hadn't planned on starting to work on that yet (the book suggested waiting two weeks before tackling each new issue), but Monday one of the neighbors came over with their grandson and asked if we could watch him because -- get this -- his cat had pushed his dog down the stairs and broke the dog's leg. (Apparently there was some ill-advised humping activity, dog-to-cat, that set off this attack. I have to say, I'm kind of siding with the cat on this one.)
So I suddenly had two babies on my hands, both of whom were fussing and needing naps, so I had no choice but to deposit Sofie in her crib and hope for the best. After about a half hour, she did get to sleep, and we've repeated that every day this week, with less and less crying time. So yay! Sleep problem number two has also been tackled.
It's like a miracle! It's like a whole new lease on life! Oh joy...
On other fronts, Halloween is over, and my clever little plan to buy only the kinds of candy I don't like was derailed by the fact that I discovered that 100 Grand bars are really pretty good. And sure enough, we had a ton left over and I was alone in a house full of candy all day yesterday and managed to put away way more than I should've. Today, though, all that's left are things I truly dislike - Butterfingers and Payday bars. So we're safe. Back to a sane and healthy diet.
That's all for now - more soon!