Coco the Wonder Cat

Some of you might remember that last year right around this time, our kitty Coco ran away. It was completely unexpected and left us heartbroken. And it’s especially hard to say goodbye without having any closure. I’m not sure that I really want to know what happened to her, the possibilities are pretty grisly. But, maybe it would help me heal a little to know and be able to move on. A year later, and I still check the animal shelters and neighborhood boards. When someone posts “found cat” to Nextdoor, my heart still skips a beat. Could it be her? It never is, obviously, but I hold out hope.

Since she’s been gone a year, I just wanted to write a little piece about her. Her eulogy, if you will. I wrote one for our kitty Nashua when he passed away, and it was very healing for me.

Coco came into our lives as quickly and bizarrely as she left. Our friend had found her in a tree near his house. She was tiny and scared, but sweet. She needed a home. I had mentioned wanting to get another kitty. Brien and I had just gotten married a few weeks before, and he said we could take her in, as a gift to me.

She wasn’t sick, and aside from her umbilical hernia, which they fixed when we had her spayed, she was a perfect little orange and white ball of fluff. It took us a while to name her, but we settled on Velcro (the nickname Coco came later), because she literally stuck to everything she touched with her claws. She was always, up until she left us, a very timid and high-strung girl. So when she landed on something, or someone tried to pick her up, or someone was holding her, or she was trying to jump up or down, always with the claws. She got stuck a lot, and it was fun to tell people, “well, that’s how she got her name.”

She and Nashua didn’t hit it off right away. She was scared, and he was pissed. He’d been my only fur kid for 10 years. What is this nonsense, he seemed to be saying. But they began to tolerate each other, and lived in peace. Well, more like a cease fire. A year or so later is when we got Newton (our beagle). After that the cats were absolute best friends. Thick as thieves. Inseparable. United in their hatred for the dog.

The cats rode in the car with me and my stepdad on the long drive from Wisconsin to California. She immediately hid, and didn’t make so much as a peep. Somewhere in Nevada, we had stopped for the night and upon pulling into the hotel parking lot, discovered that the car could no longer go in reverse, only in drive. I’d find out later that a simple bolt fell out, but at the time we were like WTF, and had no idea what to do. My stepdad opened the door, got out to look, and left the door open. Velcro made a break for it. She hopped out, ran ten feet or so, and then stopped and I scooped her up and tossed her back in. So, ok, it’s not like she hasn’t tried to escape before.

When we pulled up to the apartment in California, we couldn’t find her anywhere. I had that thing packed floor to ceiling and I started getting scared she’d been crushed by a shifting box somewhere along the line. But, when we were down to just a few boxes, I saw her. Terrified, as always. But seemingly grateful to be found.

When we moved from that apartment in Mountain View to our first flat in San Francisco, the first thing she did was find the smallest opening in the wall under the stairs and climb in, refusing to budge. But, it was dark in there and I didn’t know how big that space was, or where it went, and I asked our landlord if they knew. They turned out to be some of the nicest people we have ever met, but I didn’t know that yet. Anyway, one of them, a big burly guy, came down and started ripping out the wall. I’m not even kidding. He’s just pulling drywall and boards away, and then he said exasperated and teary-eyed, “I found her.” It was a tiny space. Maybe 4 square feet. Just a little nook under the stairs. And she still sat there, staring at us with her glowing eyes, until that evening.

When we moved to our second home in San Francisco, it had a big yard (well, relative to San Francisco it was big). And we were in the middle of the block, so back there she could not get to the street. I think she probably found a way at some point, but I liked to tell myself she couldn’t to feel better. We let her be an outdoor cat for the four years we lived there. THIS is why I was so confused when she full-on left last year. Back then, she always came meowing at the door at night, came in and ate and slept. She often showed up with an injury.

The vet told us, “She’s one of the tough ones. The scared ones get injured in the back, when they run. She gets injured in the front, fighting back.” Good for her. Not for our bank account. This girl had multiple bladder infections (where she peed blood, it was SO great for my anxiety), a huge infected abscess on her face that ruptured, a twig stuck right into her gut that I ended up pulling out myself (barf), another abscess or possible fracture on her arm, intestinal blockage. The list goes on. I showed up at the vet one time and the tech told me, “Her file is really thick!” That’s Coco, nothing done halfway.

We moved from that house into another, with a much less protected backyard. We also kept her there illegally. Well, against the lease. I tried to find someone to take her, even just temporarily, but I couldn’t. And the thought of giving her away to strangers was just too much for me. But, anyway, we kept her inside there. It was a tumultuous couple of years of life for us there, but she was my constant calm. She was always ready to snuggle, and I was always relieved to have her. Two years we lived there. Two years of hiding her in the car when the landlord came by. She stuck it out through heavy construction noise, while they re-stuccoed the whole house and replaced some of the windows.

She was ok on the drive from San Francisco to Tucson. It was a long haul, and she spent most of the time under the passenger seat, but not a peep. She’d come out occasionally to look out the window and meow at my face about how long we had been in the car and where the heck are we going anyway.

And once we arrived, she did fine. She adjusted well to the new house. She was used to not going outside and she was very grateful for the extra space. She found a zillion places to hide and curl up for a nap. She was the only pet at that time, and loving it.

A few months later we adopted Wrigley. And she definitely didn’t like having him around, but she wasn’t mean to him. He was a tiny kitten when we got him and I guess she figured he was harmless, but she had to hiss every once in a while so he wouldn’t forget who was boss. My lap was definitely off limits. Especially after I got pregnant with Finley. It was Coco’s job, according to her, to curl up to the growing baby bump and make sure things were ok. She was always very tender and attentive when I was pregnant. I feel like she knew on some kind of biological level, being a girl herself and all. It was very sweet.

Then the baby arrived. And soon after that was when we took Newton back in. And I knew it was a lot of stress for her. But she still snuggled with me. She still loved me. I could tell that.

Our house already had two doggie doors built in when we bought it, so we opened one and the rest is history. Newton came in and out according to his needs, Wrigley went out and stayed very close, he’s what I call a “backyard cat.” But Coco. She went out that day, and never came back. I expected I’d see her back that night, the way she did in San Francisco. Then I expected her back sometime the next day. Then I posted on Nextdoor and was reassured that lots of kitties go on weeks-long adventures and come home. So I waited. And waited. And waited.

And after a month, I was at the shelter several times a week. Peering at all those kitties’ faces, hoping to see her sweet heart-shaped nose. I left in tears every single time. One time it was so bad I had to sit in the lobby of the shelter on my way out and let the sobs out before I could drive home.

It’s not the prospect that she has died that hurts. And it’s not even that she ran away, because I know she was stressed out. And she’s a very independent kitty. And it’s not that she might have gotten taken in by another family, because at least I know she’s being taken care of. I’m ok with all of those prospects. What I’m not ok with is never knowing. I’ll never know what ever became of my sweet girl. I’ll never have closure. That’s what bugs me. Like, if I stop looking for her on neighborhood boards and animal shelters, then what if she suddenly shows up, and I wasn’t looking for her anymore. These are the thoughts that keep me up at night.

So, I write this for you today under the assumption that she is gone forever. Wherever she is, or was, she’s not coming back. I miss her like hell. And I thank you all for listening to all my Coco stories over the years and for listening to this one too. She was my princess. My love. My sweet wild girl. And I will miss her forever.

coco collage

The Road to Now

A few weeks ago, I snuck off with zero children to a coffee shop (ok, the Starbucks cafe at Target) and wrote. It’s a thing I do every once in a while, when the stars align and the boys are being good, and the baby naps early in the day, and I’m actually feeling like writing, and Brien has the time. He jokingly asked if I was going to write him a love letter. And I thought well, since the end of July marked our FIFTEENTH anniversary, I could try to pull something together.

I’m currently filling out this book for him, which was supposed to be a birthday present (February) and then an anniversary present (a month ago) and I just finished it because that’s a heck of a lot of things to come up with, no matter how much you love someone. But the questions in the book have really got me digging into my memories of us as a young couple, unmarried, in college. Then married. Then moving to California. Then having babies. Then buying a house and moving to Arizona. Then having another baby. And all the small things in between. It’s been quite a journey.

We have been through a hell of a lot together. Some really low times. And I mean LOW. Like, losing a baby to miscarriage low. Like me being in rehab low. Like me living a life that warranted a stay in rehab low. Like me getting a cancer diagnosis low. Like losing friends and family to horrible accidents and diseases low. Like weathering the storm of a special needs kid low. And we always, somehow, seem to come back together afterward, as strong as before, if not stronger.

Our first apartment was the size of our current dining room. I’m not even exaggerating. I dug up an old photo.

the old place

The only thing you can’t see here is the tiny kitchen to the right, with tiny, miniature appliances along the wall and no counter space. We spent our first year as a couple in this comically small apartment. We moved in together after only 5 months of dating. It was an insane decision, honestly, looking back. But, he had been subletting my apartment for me for the summer while I worked and lived at an amusement park a few hours away. At the end of the summer, I asked if he’d just like to stay. We felt really comfortable together and things were going well, so we moved in together. In a studio apartment. A tiny one.

We fought sometimes. All couples fight. But when we fought, it was either sit and deal with it and don’t go to bed until things are resolved, or truck your butt into the dark and the cold and the snow, and hope your car starts, and go who even knows where because we were both flat broke. So, sit and deal with it we did. I mean, I guess one could have holed oneself up in the 6 square foot bathroom if one wanted to, but not without looking ridiculous and getting a little claustrophobic.

I think that tiny apartment taught us a lot about relationships. About compromise. About resolving issues before they cause huge rifts. We have watched a lot of couples around us go their separate ways. And I know full well that sometimes a divorce really is what’s best for everyone involved. The statistics are pretty depressing, though, and I often wonder if we’ll be able to escape what feels inevitable. After 15 years, and a lot of bumps along the way, things still feel strong. Steadfast.

My love letter to him is just this: thank you for staying.

There have been plenty of opportunities for us to call it quits. I think neither of us could imagine getting by without the other. We have a very symbiotic relationship. But, things have been thrown in between us that were definitely difficult to move past.

He has seen me at my absolute worst. My lowest moments. I said and did a lot of horrible things when I was stuck in a slimy web of anxiety, depression, addiction and emotional baggage. But, he did not give up on me, and he did not leave me behind. He stayed. It was touch and go for a while, but he stayed. And for that I am forever grateful.

He has also been a great father to the three amazing children we created together. He’s always there to step in when I need help, or when I just need a break. There’s been zero reference to “babysitting” when he’s with them. He is their father. My co-parent. My partner in all things.

We are not perfect people. We have disagreements, petty and otherwise. We make mistakes. We still face problems and struggles. But I feel truly like we face them together. It has always been like that. Our relationship faced a lot of opposition in the beginning, but we stood there tall and proud and united, and now it’s been 15 years and I can’t imagine handling life any other way.

For everything you are, and everything you are not, I love you Brien. Here’s to the next 15.

wedding

One

The thing that every mom says when any one of her children turns one year old, but I’m going to say it anyway because what’s a birthday without a good cliche:

I can’t believe she’s already one.

This year went by so fast, I’m nearly out of breath. I was bound! and! determined! to “enjoy every moment” since she’s the last baby. And I didn’t even expect another baby. Ferris was the last baby, so I got this bonus baby and by golly I’m going to stop and smell the roses with her.

And I tried, I super duper tried, to make time slow down, make things a little slower. Except there’s elementary school, and teaching the middle kid his alphabet, and camping trips, and holidays, and visitors from out of town, and the sleepless nights that bleed into zombie days, and summer vacation, and piano lessons, and you get the idea. You don’t really have the luxury of slowing down and enjoying all the tiny moments with your third kid. It doesn’t really work that way. But I tried.

She’s still tiny for her age, 17%th percentile for weight and 43rd for height. Also she still has no teeth. So most passersby think she’s about 6 months old. I think she’ll catch up in height. When she outgrows her clothes, they’re always too short before they’re too tight. And the teeth will come when they come. I have alternated about being panicked and being flippant about it. The pediatrician doesn’t care, and I’ve heard a zillion anecdotal things about other kids, so I won’t worry. For now. And I will continue to enjoy watching people think I’m raising a prodigy as she stands and talks and uses her fine motor skills.

She is friendly, but shy. She’s fine with people saying hi and smiling and waving at her, so long as I am holding her. Otherwise it’s a no-go. And if she’s tired or otherwise in a bad mood, you can absolutely forget it. When calm, she will stare into your soul. She just takes people in, she really studies them. But they may not touch her.

She’s very sweet and loving. She loves to cuddle and give hugs. She pats my back when pick her up. She squeezes all of her stuffies and says, “Awww,” while she does it. Cuddling is her absolute favorite thing to do in the world, which is just fine with this mama. As long as she realized at some point that you don’t have to drink milk while cuddling with your mama. She nurses a lot. Like, a lot. By her age, Ferris was already totally on whole milk, and Bowie was down to one nursing session before bedtime.

She’s very adventurous and will crawl into any room. She is a pro at cruising on the furniture, and has quickly learned to use smaller things to boost her up onto the furniture. Which is brilliant and cute and everything, except she still needs to learn to get back down without hurting herself. She will be walking anytime now. She’s a pro at standing unassisted and will take a few steps here and there if she’s holding someone’s hand. She took two small steps on her own one night, but I think it was a fluke and she didn’t even realize she’d done it.

She is saying hi and bye, and uh-oh. I think she’s attempting to say Bowie. She says keeeee for kitty (and gives him unsolicited squeezes, of course). And she says dada all the time but I’m not 100% sure she knows that dada is dada.

She still is not sleeping through the night. This is unusual for our kids, but again, normal for the most part. She will nurse and fall back asleep. Sometimes she doesn’t even need to nurse, just cuddle. She loves to cuddle. Cuddling is her favorite. Sometimes I think the sleep issue is tied to a temperature issue, because her bed is in the direct path of the air duct, and the air coming out of it right now is pretty cold. Perhaps in the winter when it’s no air, or warm air, she’ll do better. She definitely prefers to be very warm.

I am going to continue to nurse her as long as she wants to. Like I said, she’s still very enthusiastic about it. It’s easy for us, most importantly for me. No matter what, I always have something to feed her. But I do need to step up the food game. She’s very excited about food and she loves to try new things. She’s got a great appetite. Her favorite food is bananas and she’ll eat 2-3 of them a day. She can also handle a half pound of tofu a day. When she’s decided she’s done eating, she has taken to throwing the remainder on the floor. I’m not sure how I’m going to keep up with the mess when the dog dies.

I think we are going to have a very exciting second year together. Both boys will be in school, so she’ll have me all to herself for most of the day. I’m looking for things to do with toddlers in Tucson, which has not been a fruitful search, but there must be something. There’s always the zoo.

I thought after two kids, I knew everything there was to know about babies. Then came Finley. So different from her brothers, so unique in her likes and dislikes, so very attached to me. It just goes to show, none of us knows it all, and all parents are doing the best they can every single day.

Thanks to everyone far and wide who wished her a happy birthday yesterday!

One! Impossible!

finley smash cake

Ten

My firstborn is ten today. I’ve been a mom for ten years! Which doesn’t seem possible! Ten years!

He’s growing into an amazing person. At ten, he’s sometimes more grown up than I know, and other times still very much a kid.

Strikingly independent, choosing a few months ago to start walking to and from school on his own.

Very opinionated, on most subjects. And as his teacher this past year told us, even though sometimes he’s a little raw with his words, “He’s not wrong!”

He’s so effortlessly talented as an artist. Even his simple doodles far surpass any drawing I could ever do. And he’s equally talented with paint, clay, chalk and just crafting for fun. He’s also a bonafide musician. He tricked his piano teacher into letting him play songs by ear. Which is super great that he can do that, but no, you’re going to learn the notes kiddo.

He’s incredibly smart. I know all moms say that, but really, so smart. He did a project for the school science fair, and ended up winning city-wide and headed to SARSEF, the Southern Arizona regional fair. And he earned a trophy there! He often does not give himself very much credit, and has very little confidence, but when he puts his mind to it, he can do amazing things.

He’s sensitive to his core. It will be an asset as an adult, but as a kid he often just ends up sad or angry. It’s been a challenge helping him harness all that emotion, while still letting him be himself.

He’s as sweet and tender as his is rough around the edges. Watching him play with his baby sister is like watching a whole other child. It’s been amazing watching those two bond.

He’s a lover of animals. He loves our pets, of course, but loves to see new animals and learn all about them. When we go to the zoo, he rattles of a half dozen facts that he learned in zoo camp about every animal he sees.

Living in Arizona has made a real explorer and cowboy out of him. He loves everything about the outdoors, and camping, and is always up for an adventure. It’s the one setting where I get to see him fearless and brave.

It’s like my husband said, it would be nice to just freeze time and enjoy him just as he is. But it’s also been amazing watching him grow and become the man he will be someday. The great paradox of parenting.

We love you, Bowie. And we can’t wait to see what the next decade of your life will bring.

bowie is ten

 

Nine Months

Baby Finley is nine months old now! She has been on the outside as long as she was on the inside! (Well I guess since she came two weeks early, I suppose she has been on the outside as long as she was on the inside two weeks ago. Semantics.) It’s amazing to think about, considering how baby’s first nine months go so much faster than the previous nine months. You feel like you were pregnant for at least 87 years, but no, it was only nine months. Just like the nine months that just sped past you so fast your head is spinning.

She finally learned to crawl the day before her nine month birthday. She had all the mechanics and strength down, she just had to put all the pieces together. And once she did, she was off like a crazy race horse. And now she is fearless. And I was like, gurl just CTFD on the bruises until after we see the pediatrician. She’s pulling herself up to stand, but has no balance and gets way too excited and falls. Usually on her head. Usually on the tile floor. She’s going to be walking in like, two seconds (see previous paragraph for parental timing units).

Speaking of which, we visited on Friday. She is weighing in at 17 pounds, and measures 27 inches. She is in the 30th percentile for both. She is still my Dinky Doo. She is wearing some 9 month old clothes, but is still in some 6 month stuff too. (Kids’ clothing sizes are so bizarre. Like some brands have 6-9 month, some 6-12 month, some straight up 6 or 9 month. And they all fit differently. Anyway.)

It was a funny appointment too. You’d think given the number of times the doctor reassured me with, “That’s normal,” that I was a first time mom. But I’m a THIRD time mom. She just so different from her brothers. I mean, they are all different and individual but as far as first year baby stuff, she’s crazy different.

Her favorite things right now are crawling (obvs.), playing with her brothers, grabbing the kitty’s ears, riding in a shopping cart, finding new things and putting them directly into her mouth, bath time, yogurt melties, smiling at people, peek-a-boo, sitting upright in the stroller, and teething but getting no teeth.

Her very least favorite things are baby food with broccoli in it, being constipated, being cold, the end of bath time, not yet being able to stand, taking a tile floor to the head, having her face wiped after meal time, being held by anyone but mom or dad, and the insult that is Cheerios.

nine months

This is Thirty Nine

Sunday was my birthday. And it was a good one. A quiet and seemingly boring, but good one, as most birthdays after age 25 are. Especially if you have children.

Thirty-nine is kind of a big one for me. I know it’s a totally random number, but I have my reasons. Not the least of which is the fact that my grandfather died of melanoma at the age of 39. And he was probably diagnosed (or should have been diagnosed) around the same age that I was, at 34 years old.

The past five years of my life have been…something. REALLY something. And one of the reasons was I was waiting out the five-year post-diagnosis period that the medical community waits before your cancer can be determined to be fully gone. Not that you won’t get it again, or some other kind won’t pop up, but the first cancer they found, if it’s not back within five years, then congratulations, you’re cured. I just hit that 5-year milestone at the beginning of this month. So, yeah, it felt pretty good to turn 39 and feel like I was (more or less) healthy. Alive.

The day started off with the dog somehow managing to escape to the driveway, get in a dog fight, possibly get kicked by a neighbor, (this is all hearsay from our kids who witnessed the whole thing but didn’t say anything) and then came inside to recover from the fight/kick and we all thought he was dying. Until we offered him treats. Then he was miraculously recovered.

I had brunch at a diner with Brien and Finley. And we then went on a hot date to Target to pick out the toaster oven we had wanted to buy for a while now. And I was going to get some goldfish for the aquarium that’s been sitting empty since our beloved George the beta died. But my husband was wondering if I wanted to upgrade to a bigger aquarium and get fancy tropical fish and after a mild panic attack and existential crisis, we left the store with nothing. Hashtag this. is. anxiety.

Then it was off to the mall for Dairy Queen, but it turns out at some point they ripped the whole Dairy Queen kiosk out. It’s as if it was never there. We got nachos instead, from one of my favorite restaurants in Tucson, that happens to now have a location in the mall food court. I bought a great little travel bag for camping essentials (we just got back from a four-day haul and I learned A LOT about my camping needs) and scored some deals at Gap. And I am officially more excited about the unicorn socks I bought Finley and the adventuring shirts I got the boys than I am about anything I got for myself. Mom life.

I went home to discover that while we were out, the boys had picked out an ice cream cake for me with the help of Gramps and Gram. Brien ordered pizza. We dined and discussed Bowie’s science fair project. I got a stomach ache (so classically me) and turned in early.

A few days later, a surprise gift from Brien showed up. He got me a metal detector! I have wanted one since I was a tween. This guy in the tiny northern Illinois town I am from had found my aunt’s class ring with his metal detector. I was enchanted with the idea that there were treasures like that just out there waiting to be found. My interest was sparked again when we lived in San Francisco. I combed the beaches for sea glass, but I always wondered what might be under all that sand. And now, we are out in remote parts of the desert in our Jeep. All the history of Spanish explorers and Native American battles and the mining industry–the excitement is too much! Great gift.

And today, I went back to the pet store and had Ferris help me pick out two small goldfish. They have yet to be named. I shall keep you updated.

fishies

I am telling you about my birthday in such detail so I can document it. Every year I fill out my year end review, and the question about how you spent your birthday trips me up every damn time. What did you do for your birthday? Um, gee, well, uh, that was 9 months ago so I HAVE NO IDEA. Anyway, now I have something official to reference.

And also to let you know what a big deal it is for me to be this age, and to my knowledge, be perfectly healthy. It feels good. The amount of anxiety I had thinking about this birthday way back when I was 34 and newly diagnosed was all-consuming. And now the day is here and I feel great, positive, capable. I got this.

Big thanks to every single person, near and far, who wished me a happy birthday. It was a happy one. Here’s to many more.

What #100happydays Taught Me About Self-Care

I started a little bit late (it was supposed to be the last 100 days of the year) and I missed a day here and there, but I stuck with the #100happydays photo challenge on Instagram. Which is a pretty big feat for me, and believe it or not, my mood did convince me a few times to just scrap the whole thing. All that is involved is taking one picture every day of some small moment of joy, but on some days even that was too much pressure for me.

I have about two weeks left and then I’ve reached 100, but I will probably just keep going. With or without the hashtag. It has taught me a lot of things, and helped me with my mental illnesses.

It has helped me reach full gratitude. And to understand that gratitude can come from a variety of small nooks and crannies in our lives. It is heavily suggested in therapy for depression to keep a gratitude journal, in which you list a handful of things you’re grateful for. Which always made me feel so pressured in that moment to come up with 5 really amazing, huge, fantastic things I was grateful for. And then when I couldn’t come up with 5, I felt like a failure. Which is not exactly the result you’re going for with this exercise.

I learned that gratitude can be a cloud shaped like a bunny. Catching a glimpse of the jaguar at the zoo. Seeing your infant enjoying a toy from a dear friend. Appreciating a rain shower. Literally stopping and smelling the flowers. It’s all these things combined that make for a happy and joyful life. It can’t be all new house, birth of my baby, huge bonus all the time, and that’s ok.

I also learned a very big lesson in mindfulness. I was always trying so hard to force mindfulness on myself, when my inclination is to ruminate on the past or panic about the future. So, when I’d catch myself in those moments, I’d feel shame. Again, not what you’re going for here.

I learned how to take a moment and focus on what’s right there in front of me, even if only for the moment that I snap the picture. And, more importantly, I learned that that counts. Mindfulness is a practice, and there’s no minimum for daily mindfulness. You can get it in there in bits and bops and that’s totally fine. As long as you’re noticing it and realizing it, and focusing on how happy it has made you, you’re doing it right.

And I have learned the power that lies within accomplishing something, finishing a task. It’s not as if I have never finished anything, I’ve seen quite a number of things through to the end, and kept up good habits. But, it can be difficult to remember in a low moment how good it feels to finish something, even if it felt difficult and overwhelming in the process. This is an important thing for anyone with depression to remember. That there is a great benefit to doing things just for the sake of doing them. Things you once enjoyed, but your depression has robbed you of. And also important for anyone with anxiety. It might not happen perfectly, or even be a success at the end, but you must let go of that anxiety and take the outcome for what it is.

It seemed like a simple social media game when I first hopped on board, but I have been amazed at the transformation on my mental health from this simple task of finding and documenting happy moments in my days. It holds me accountable to my social media followers, which is key for me in helping me do things, and do them well. If I am doing something only for myself, that is where I fall short and give up (self-worth not being my strong suit).

Reconsider what a small thing like this could do for your happiness. I took it on because of the advice for anxious introverts to “always say yes.” That is, say yes to invitations, new experiences, simple challenges like #100happydays. Giving up is always an option, so you have an out. But you more than likely will find most experiences to be enriching and enjoyable.

Enjoy below some of my more random moments in this photo challenge. And begin one of your own. Who cares if it’s the middle of January?

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Year in Review 2017

My yearly wrap-up post.

And what a year it was. I spent the first half pregnant with a baby I had no idea what I was going to do with. And the second half parenting a newborn, and dealing with drama in both boys’ schools. And then there’s all these THINGS that are HAPPENING around us, and it’s enough to make you want to hole up in a panic room for the rest of your life. But, we’ve made it. And a new year awaits.

1. What did you this year that you’d never done before?

Had a third baby. Had a daughter! Had a pet run away. Homeschooled. Was pregnant in 100+ degree heat. Bought my own washer and dryer. Ran an Airbnb. Went to the gem show. Saw the Grand Canyon. Camped with a newborn.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I never remember my resolutions at the end of the year. I suppose I resolved to save money, get rid of junk, the usual.

This year my resolutions read like a to do list:

Get my wedding ring fixed. I noticed one of the prongs was broken. This happened to me about 5 or 6 years ago, and the diamond fell out in the bathroom at a museum, and thankfully I retrieved it. Anyway, I took the ring off so that wouldn’t happen again, put it in a drawer and promptly forgot about it.

Get my recalled airbag fixed. They send a card in the mail every so often. They harass my husband over the phone about it. I called once and a guy was supposed to call me back and never did. I made the call, checked it off my to do list, and moved on with my life. I hate when you can’t rely on people. Anyway, I need to call back.

Get to the dentist. It’s been…a while.

Lose weight. Last January I was pregnant, and the January before that I’m sure I needed to gain weight. But this year I’m quite a bit heavier than I’m used to being. Lots of leftover pregnancy weight and combining my breastfeeding appetite with the unhealthy treats that seem to multiply in my house at Thanksgiving and Christmas. I could stand to eat a smoothie once in a while, instead of peanut butter M&Ms.

I need to get my Etsy shop up and running again. I’ve got oodles of candles just sitting around, and they sell at shows, so I’m hoping they’ll sell online too.

I should blog more often.

3. Did anyone close to you die?

A good family friend passed away suddenly.

4. What would you like to have in 2018 that you lacked in 2017?

More life balance. Less anxiety. Patience. Confidence. Free time.

5. What dates from 2017 will remain etched upon your memory?

Finley’s birthday. Inauguration day. Labor Day weekend (I got to see the Grand Canyon!)

6. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Having another baby. The whole thing was wrought with stress and uncertainty. And the delivery was stressful. In the end she came and everything was fine, and it can thankfully all be a distant memory. It was hard work, and I made it. I did it. We did it.

7. What was your biggest failure?

Letting my anxiety get the best of me. When I don’t actively work on it, life lags. Feelings slump. I fall back into old patterns. It’s not hard to manage, but sometimes I let less important things take center stage. After a few years of doing really well, even through the big move, and an unplanned pregnancy, I sailed. Then, I crumbled. Sometimes I don’t even know why I do that, and I’m learning that it’s ok not to know, but you still need to fix yourself.

8. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Having the baby, and having my tubes tied after. And several mole biopsies, as per the usual.

9. What was the best thing you bought?

The baby. Haha! Just kidding. I mean yes, she was the best thing. But as for material goods: my new freezer. We JUST got it, so I don’t know if I can say it’s the best, but it’s a game changer. I can’t jam enough stuff into this freezer. Crock pot meals, ready-to-eat meals, treats for the boys. Baby food at some point. And I save a lot of stuff in the freezer, basically anything you can freeze. It’s going to work out VERY well.

10. Where did most of your money go?

The baby. More plumbing woes. The husband’s Jeep.

11. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Not being pregnant anymore! (Ever!)

12. What song will always remind you of 2017?

Halleluja by Leonard Cohen. Not because of its recent rise in popularity because of his death in 2016. Though that rise in popularity brought the song back to the forefront of my mind, and I remembered how much I always loved it. It’s hauntingly sweet and heartbreaking and fits perfectly with my mood sometimes.

Wild World by Cat Stevens. As I mentioned before, it makes me think of my cat Coco and how she ran away, unexpectedly. Understandably, but still unexpectedly. I had hopes she would return when the temperature dropped, but we have had temps as low as 29 degrees and she has not shown her face. I can only hope she has found a new, warm home and is being loved and cared for in her senior years.

I am Woman by Helen Reddy. It has been empowering watching women around the world take of the gloves and fight bare-fisted for things to change. Women coming forward against powerful men, and the #metoo movement. For my daughter’s sake, I hope I am witnessing the downfall of the patriarchy. Or I hope at least we’ve knocked it down a few notches.

We Will Rock You by Queen. It is Ferris’ absolute favorite jam, and he is constantly asking me to play it in my car. He has also learned how to ask our Amazon Echo to play it. I hear it a lot. But hey, things could be worse. I will always think of him at age 5 when I hear that song.

13. Compared to this time last year, are you:

a) happier or sadder?

b) thinner or fatter?

c) richer or poorer?

a) Sadder, I think. Maybe roughly the same. This time of year is always hard for me, so maybe that’s contributing. I have not been happy with the way things are going for our nation, that is definitely not as good as last year. It’s a strange thing, depression. I feel loved, and blessed, and lucky, and comfortable. Just not happy.

b) Oh man, so much fatter. I was a pant size bigger after I had the baby, and that weight has gone NOWHERE. I’m not eating well, that’s the number one contributing factor. And who has time for real exercise anymore?

c) Richer. In that we are paying much less toward our mortgage than we paid for rent in San Francisco. And the Airbnb rental brings in a substantial amount of money. Not a lot richer, but richer.

14. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Enjoying pregnancy. It was my last, after all. I let the stress cloud all the enjoyment. I am enjoying her as a tiny baby though. I know all too well how fast that goes. As I write this, she is just over the 5 month mark, and she is eating solids and starting to sit up on her own. She’s in size 2 diapers already, and already outgrown some clothes. Just, like, slow down, time!

15. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Stressing. Eating. Stress eating.

16. How did you spend Christmas?

My in-laws were in town (house shopping!). They came over early and we opened gifts and watched the boys play with all their new stuff. It was 75 degrees out, so Brien and Grandpa took the boys to the park to shoot their new cap guns. (Yes they still make cap guns, and yes my husband bought some.) My mother-in-law gave me the inside scoop on these turkeys you cook from frozen in the oven, and they’re all seasoned and ready to go and everything. So we stuck one of those in the oven. And then I was supposed to make mashed potatoes and Brussels sprouts, but I went to lay down with the baby so she would nap, and ended up falling asleep myself. Y’all, I got a NAP for Christmas. And my wonderful mother-in-law had made the rest of the food and set the table, and I will forever be grateful. It was a good day.

17. What was your favorite TV program?

I rewatched Gilmore Girls. And Friends. I’ve also enjoyed The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, The Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce (a mid-season cancellation BOO), Flaked. Lots of baseball.

18. What did you do on your birthday, and how old are you?

I turned 38 this year. It came and went quietly, as most 30-something birthdays do. I was pregnant, and I think the boys were on Spring Break. Not notable. I will try to make the answer to this question more interesting next year.

Happy new year! Let’s hope 2018 is an upswing.

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Now I’m a Homeschool Mom?

A few weeks ago, I broke up with our preschool.

I don’t know if I had ever mentioned it on here before, but last year Bowie was expelled within 6 weeks of starting at a Montessori elementary school, as a result of “violence” from him. And I never felt the strength to fight them on it, I rolled over and took it. He’s very happy at the local elementary school so, emotionally, we all got over it. But, this time I took a chance and voiced my thoughts, and left the school.

The preschool/Kindergarten and elementary schools are in separate locations, so I was never sure if the preschool had been up to speed on what happened with Ferris’ older brother. But, Ferris had a very good year there last year, and we were feeling like it was right for him.

Ferris started acting out physically toward his peers, and I just started getting the phone calls, and the threats of suspension, and all the stuff that happened with Bowie last year, and I was not going to take it.

Elementary school was free, so whatever. But preschool costs us $800 a month, and Ferris was learning very little there, he really should have gone to Kindergarten this year but didn’t meet the September 1 birthday cut off. We had planned to put him in Bowie’s school next year anyway, and had debated skipping this year of “preschool”, but went for it anyway. It’s nice to have time away from your kids, and to have them socializing, and hopefully being educated. My kids were not getting educated at this school, they were being made to feel separate from the group, and shamed for behavior that was likely instigated by another student.

I make NO excuses for my sons’ physical outbursts, but I know from my background at the co-op in San Francisco that my kids are not instigators, they are reactors. And they need emotional support surrounding any incident, whether they were the attacker or the victim. And this school does not provide it.

When I went to pick Ferris up from school on Friday, he was in a corner alone, for having dumped toys on the ground in a fit of rage, and he was bawling. Not just mad and crying, sobbing. And I had had enough. As had my husband. Who is away at the time for work, but even remotely, he knew the whole situation was wrong.

We come from a background of being taught day after day, and through several parent education classes (required at the co-op) of Hand-in-Hand Parenting, emotional understanding, Gordon Neufeld approaches to parenting. And the Montessori style is so opposite of this, I couldn’t believe it. I figured that if he was going to be there for six-plus hours a day, and be treated as he was being treated, we were basically paying these people $800 a month to emotionally neglect our child. Instead of seeking the cause of the outburst, the merely isolate the child for the outburst and move on with their day. This is not effective discipline, nor is it the right way to treat a child.

As far as learning was going, he can write his name. Barely. He knows some numbers, and can count to 12. At the same age, Bowie was much further along. Going to preschool a mere 3 hours a day. So, obviously not a ton of practical learning was happening for Ferris.

And when they call you and say, “He pushed another child today. If anything else happens today, you’ll have to come pick him up.”, it takes a great deal of patience and cheek biting not to shout, “YOU ARE THE TEACHERS. THIS IS YOUR SCHOOL. IT IS YOUR JOB, NOT MINE, TO MAKE SURE HE FOLLOWS SCHOOL RULES.”

Ahem.

So, long story slightly less longer than it could be, we quit. We left. We broke up with them.

There are other preschools in Tucson that we could afford that could do a slightly better job. But, I can take him out and do learning activities, and do academic workbooks with him at home, for free. 

In 10 months, they will finally deem him age appropriate for Kindergarten, and he will go to Bowie’s school, and that will be that.

I have been asked by all the people I emotionally unloaded upon if I thought I’d be ok having him at home all the time. I’m not known for a past with extremely great experiences in this department. I know that. But, the prospect does not scare me. I have learned a lot in my 9.25 years as a parent, and I can figure this out. And it’s only for a while, less than a year. He will be home with me and we will just get to hang out and be together, he will not be shamed for having typical 5-year-old emotional outbursts, and we will be saving a good chunk of money. Win-win-win.

That said, I’m now a homeschool mom, I guess? On a technicality? And I’m looking for ideas on resources. Good places to go and do educational things. Good workbooks or companies with good learning materials. I’m not going to go all out here, I just want to teach him his letters and numbers, and some basic concepts. So, if you homeschool, or have homeschooled, or are just up on the subject, please pass along any applicable info. I’m on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and obviously here. Lay it on me.

Five

On Sunday, my dear sweet Ferris, my now middle child, turned five. Aside from being super mad that he can’t go to Kindergarten now, and didn’t magically overnight learn how to read and write, he’s pretty excited.

He’s as hilarious as he is cute, and he’s pretty darn cute. And he’s so unique, and not afraid to let his personality show. And a unique boy needs a unique celebration. The day started off with some birthday pancakes at Denny’s. Then, we took him on a shopping spree at Toys R Us, mainly because we forgot to get presents until the last minute, but if he asks, we thought it would just be more fun!

birthday pancakes

Then it was off to Golf N Stuff with friends. It’s a place here in Tucson with mini-golf, bumper boats, go karts and an arcade. It’s basically the best place to spend a kid’s birthday. After that, we headed to Dairy Queen for ice cream, and then at bedtime he got to play with his new toys in his for a while before going to bed. All in all, a good day had by everyone.

putt putt

 

birthday ice cream

He’s becoming his own little person in so many ways. Of course, anything his big brother loves, he loves too. But he’s always putting his own little spin on all of it.

He mispronounces like, a million words. I don’t have the heart to correct him, it’s just way too sweet. Some examples: kitty glitter (kitty litter), sprinkle water (sparkling water), Pandaspress (Panda Express, his favorite restaurant), flip flaps (flip flops), roaster coaster (roller coaster), Golfing Stuff (Golf N Stuff) and scream time (screen time). He also likes to tell us how he’s feeling using the infinitive. “I feel like to poop.” “I feel like to sleep.” “I feel like to have cereal.”

Favorite things: Scream time (see above), Minecraft, Legos, cats, dogs, dinosaurs, robots, knock knock jokes, salami, dirt, horsepower (when we are driving and the engine revs), Jeep adventures, arts and crafts, root beer, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, McDonald’s Playplaces, and making poop and fart jokes.

Least favorite things: not getting a turn during Scream Time, having his picture taken, the fact that his car door is still child locked, bedtime, leaving school, chocolate (weirdo), and apparently, riding in someone else’s car (we tried a carpool thing with friends and it did NOT go over well).

It’s amazing to watch him grown and become his own little man. So much of him reminds me of when my younger brother was a kid, which is very heartwarming. I’m just thankful he hasn’t needed stitches yet, very much UNLIKE my younger brother.

Happy fifth birthday to my dearest Ferris, I’m sorry you’re the middle child now, but being sandwiched between siblings has got to have some benefit to it, right? I vow to make sure I remember to douse you with as much mom love as I can. I hope you have a great year, even though you don’t get to go to Bowie’s school quite yet. Here’s to 5 and all the exciting stuff to come.