Kittens. I lose.

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Two feline brothers sitting alap the eldest human brother. I’m soooo outnumbered.

No names yet. A whopping two pounds each, fresh from the local shelter.

The kittens adore the boys wild, loud, and subdued. The boys adore the kittens awake, asleep, and playful.

And while the kittens are in their own room, learning the house slowly, I’m very happy with this new development.

Call me next week when the tree is decorated and the kittens have run of the house and we’ll see.

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Kittens

I’m being outvoted. Right here, right now.

kittens

The kids want kittens.

Spouse wants kittens.

I’m having nightmares about Black Friday emails and Cyber Monday emails and Last Night of Hanukkah emails about KITTENS.

We’re dog people. And when our cat died earlier this year we were heartbroken. And it took about a week for someone to say, quietly, “time for a dog.”

But I’m not training a puppy. And I’m not socializing an older dog. And I’m not paying a fortune for the medical bills of a senior dog. All of those statements are heartless and cruel, and I don’t care. I don’t need another child, and let’s face it: adding a dog to our family would be as much work as having another child.

It already takes everything I have to keep my boys from killing each other. Every other minute. I’m not going to tell them to stop wrestling the dog, too.

It already takes half an hour to leave the freaking house, trying to keep calm while the fiascos and the fights and the “oh, I forgot!” and the “wait for me!” and the “hey, I want to be first” nonsense ricochets all around me. I’m not adding a leash and a poop bag to that stressful chaos.

So I warmed, a bit, to the idea of cats. It’s been nice not having a litter box. Not worrying about keeping the door closed. Not paying for food and litter and toys and vet bills. Not watching where I step, being awakened by someone other than the three who already wake me, and not worrying about anyone or anything’s poop.

But we already know about cats. We have the stuff. The kids want something small to love.

And who can blame them?

Well, me. I can, if this turns out to be a horrible idea.

We’ve talked about how kittens don’t know the rules, and might fight with feet and hands and backpacks and LEGOs.

They say that’s okay.

We’ve talked about how, if a kitten tries to wrestle your hand or foot you have to say, “uh-oh” and remove that body part from their grasp. And how you have to get a toy as an alternative, but not so quickly that they think they’re being rewarded for clawing and gnawing on human flesh.

They say that’s okay.

We’ve talked about keeping items away from the edges of shelves and about gently removing kittens who jump on counters or tables.

They say that’s okay.

I’m running out of ammunition, people.

Because kittens.

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Dog or cat

Since our sweet old cat died, the family has been embroiled in a convivial battle of “dog or cat?”

We loved our cats, but we might be dog people.

We adore dogs, but we might be cat people. (Okay, let’s be honest. We’re not cat people. But Spouse misses our cat and I miss our cat and we’re willing to accept that there might be one or two more cats out there somewhere who would be just perfect.)

The kids seem to like both cats and dogs, though they’ve been pressing for a dog. Peanut, our eldest, is an animal whisperer. Living creatures trust him, and he has the right balance of sincere gentleness and authoritative confidence with critters who are not his brother. Dogs love him, cats love him, sheep flock to him. He’s the kind of guy who can convince spiders to walk out the front door (ours is a no-kill house and we usually ask spiders to climb onto a piece of paper for the ride outside). I’ve actually seen cats hiding under a car come out for Peanut only after the rest of us walk away.

Butter, the three-year-old, is unpredictable. (That was redundant, I know. But I’ve heard there are a handful of three-year-olds who don’t calmly pet pets and then shriek and take off chasing them. Or, say, gently carry a duck’s egg for five minutes before pitching it like a baseball. Sorry, farmer lady!) I pity any pet who is near Butter if the wrong mood strikes. And since he’s three, the wrong mood always shows up at least…what…once an hour.

So during the process of getting ready to visit a few animal shelters today, I stopped fight number 8,314 with the reminder that we can’t bring a pet home until we can prove we can be friendly to each other. That pets are helpless creatures and they need absolute, inviolable kindness.

So the boys shaped up and played nicely and talked nicely and touched each other nicely. We didn’t find our new pet, but we got more information during the search.

And by bedtime the boys were at it again. Disrespectful to each other, saying hurtful things, reacting to hurt with fists.

I stopped them and reminded them that we have to be kind.

But Butter put his foot down. “Nope,” he said. “I don’t want any dog or any cat or any pet.”

I asked him why.

“I don’t like to be gentle and nice,” he insisted.

Fair enough.

So now I’m looking for a shelter that will trade a sweet dog for a sometimes-sweet preschooler. Let me know if you know of one. I’m sure they can adopt Butter out if they put clear guidelines on his kennel. “Does well with people and children and pets. Sometimes. Sometimes he’s a raging a**hole, so he needs just the right home where everyone understands that he’s not a bad guy, he just needs some positive reinforcement training to get some freaking manners.”

Any chance you have a pup you’ll trade for that?

My first baby

I knew when I met him that I was meant to be his mama.

I’d been in a relationship for about a year and my biological clock was telling me it was time to nurture something. I mentioned this urge to my boyfriend, and he told me I should look into adopting a newt.

I rolled my eyes and asked a coworker for help with details. She suggested finding a rabbit to parent for a while. A starter family, she said, began small. Then I could move up to a cat or dog. I wrinkled my nose. “Never a cat. I hate cats.”

We went to the shelter, which had no bunnies. At lunch, the waitress gave us our check and asked if we knew anyone looking for a kitten. “Not me,” I said. “I don’t like cats.” My friend, who has fostered more cats than any other person on Earth, asked about the kittens. Abandoned, blah blah blah, eyedropper feedings every other hours, blah blah blah, about the size of this bagel…my friend suggested we go take a look.

Never believe an animal activist who says you should “just” go look at kittens.

The woman went to the back of her house and brought out a huge basket teeming with kittens. And right in the middle was the most beautiful caramel-colored kitten I’ve ever seen. I pointed right at him and said, “I want to hold him.”

And I was done for.

I brought him and his brother home, after a terrifying stop at Target where I panicked at leaving them in the car, panicked at choosing the right litter and box, panicked at choosing the right food and water dish. Panicked at driving home with a cat carrier…pretty much all of the panics I had driving home my son years later. How did they let me adopt these creatures without any proof I could do the job?!

I gave them a bath (yeah, well, I didn’t know, but neither did they) and tried to use the blow drier to dry them (yeah, well, I didn’t know, but they taught me). When my boyfriend knocked on the front door the next morning I ushered them into the bathroom and shut the door. I told him when he came in that I had a surprise. He glowered, and said it had better be a newt.

I opened the door and these gorgeous, fluffy little boys came tripping all over themselves out of the bathroom. The grown man put the tips of his fingers together just beneath his chin and whispered, his face all aglow, “It’s kittens!”

They loved him. They loved us. They made us laugh and we did our best with them. When the first baby came, the black cat was mad but the caramel cat was curious. He stayed, always, two feet away from the baby. We have a fabulous video of Peanut, just able to sit up at 6 months, calling to the beautiful orange cat. In gibberish. Persistenly. At high volume. For more than 10 minutes. And then bursting into tears that the fuzzy brother would not come when called in screechy gibberish.

But whenever Peanut cried, the cat came running over.

That habit persisted until last week. If anyone in the house cried, my oldest love came running to see if he could do anything. And as always, I told him, “Thank you for checking on us. But seeing as you have no thumbs, you’re not much good to me, you silly old thing. But I appreciate the gesture.”

He was huge. When he laid on my chest, all 15 pounds, I felt grounded and true. When he laid on my lap, I acted just as I did with newborns: don’t move a muscle lest you jostle your dear little one.

He was a giant baby. Weaned too early, he and his feline brother both came to us, two months old, nursing on anything they could find. The black cat nursed on his older brother’s forearm. The big beige guy nursed on clothing. He eventually weaned his brother by biting him every time he started to suck on that wheat-colored arm. But nobody pushed him off the clothing, and for 13 years he slept and nursed on the jammies I wore out of the fire.

Whenever I sang, particularly showtunes, that little camel-hair-coated kitty came and sniffed my mouth, as though there were something preternatural inside he needed to diagnose. I wondered if he suspected I’d swallowed a Broadway cast and he wanted to come to their aid.

When his black feline sibling died, we worried about him. But he seemed not to notice. He still had us, and he seemed quite pleased about that.

When he got sick last week, I worried and called the vet. When they said he might not last the day I sobbed. When he didn’t make it even 48 hours from the first sign of illness, Spouse, that same man who crawled around with the kittens and wanted desperately to name them both Newt, wept like I’ve never seen him cry before.

Because Luke was our first baby.

And I’m wrecked.

Spouse took the litter boxes out of the bathrooms today. I thought I was going to be okay until the moment I saw that, for the first time in 13 years, there’s actually room to navigate our bathrooms.

And I don’t like it one little bit.

Hide between Dad's Feet

Pretending innocence

Rantlets: little rants of the day (ii) (the animal edition)

Um, ‘scuse me, creators of children’s characters? Would you please have some basic decency and stop selling your characters’ likeness to companies that make nutritionally despicable foods? You know kids like your little animated or puppety monster whatsit thingie. You know kids should eat food that occurs in nature. Do you read the ingredients on the crap your animated or puppety monster whatsit thingie is selling? Crimminy, isn’t your soul worth anything to you?

Cats!…Cats! Who did this? I asked the kid, but he doesn’t have claws and this reeks of clawed beastie. Don’t pretend to be taking a bath. And even if you were, it’s not like you can’t listen while you’re licking yourself.  Are you listening? Rolls of paper towels, even rolls of recycled paper towels, cost the planet trees and are really expensive and are not disemboweling toys. While we’re at it, would it kill you to barf on the tile or on the cork instead of on the teeny, tiny little rugs we have scattered through the house? There’s like a million-to-one ratio of cleanable to non-cleanable surfaces here, and you have to choose the spray-blot-blot-blot-spray-blot-blot-rub-curse-scrub-curse-trash surface rather than the wipe, spray, wipe surface? I’m gonna stop feeding you if you can’t keep your barf and your crap in their proper places. Even my two-and-a-half-year old has mastered that.

Speaking of people who send their pets to the shelter if they make a mess–are you freaking kidding me? Someone should send you to the shelter for being an a**hole. If you parent an animal, you’re supposed to care for it, teach it, and love it. You’re not supposed to give up on it. I hope society gives up on you and you wind up living in a van down by the river. And when that happens, don’t try to adopt a pet so you’ll have comfort. I’m gonna tell ’em all what a jerk you are, and how many dogs you sent to the pound just because they didn’t do what you told them the first time. And they’re going to eat you up.

When did we become the laziest people on earth? As a nation, we’re grossly obese, we expect the world to be 71 degrees at all times, we want instant food (then instant weight loss), and we can’t seem to manage life unless everything is single serve and disposable. (Not you, Jon and Kate Plus Eight. You get a pass. Something had to give. Glad the lollypops are organic.) But when did it get so bad that people just leave their grocery carts next to their car? Is it that hard to complete the cycle? Drive (lazyass!) to the store, wander around slumped over the cart (stand up, lazyass), push paid purchases out to the car, put bags into the car, and drive off? When, for pete’s sake, did we stop pushing the carts back to the corrals? I mean, that moment seems to have passed. But now people don’t even move the carts out of the parking space. Not up on a curb, not with the ten other carts one aisle over. Just leave it right there in the middle of the freaking space. No wonder the world hates us. Put your carts back, you lazy f*ckers!

Rantlets: little rants of the day

Hey, recycle professionals: I know life is hard, what with your being promoted from garbage man to waste management engineer. But you’re making enough money to break down the boxes for me. Seriously. I’m doing my part just by separating the twenty types of recycling mentioned in the eight-column spreadsheet you send us every year. “Please break down boxes” my ass. You do it. (Better yet, I’ll break down boxes as soon as you bastards start promoting composting as a way to eliminate billions of tons of waste every year…oh, wait. I forgot. You get more money when we throw stuff away. No wonder you want us to break down the boxes–so we can put more stuff in the can. Gotcha. Now that I know, I’ll change my answer: “Please break down boxes” my ass. You do it.)

Okay, people. This is easy. When you hear a siren, pull the fuck over and stop your car. Not slow down and look around. Not modify your trajectory a bit to the right. Pull over and stop. You selfish prick, there is an emergency somewhere, and since you’re too much of an a** to go help, the least you can do is get out the way.

Hey, parents of more than one kid at the playground: I’m sick of doing your job for you. Please pay attention to all your kids. You made more than one, so you really should parent all of them. I know that little one is cuter than the old one–believe me, I know, since I’ve just spent a freaking hour with your least favorite over here–but I’m sick of making sure the ignored and older kid doesn’t crack open her head, crack open my kid’s head, or drive me nuts with the ten hour stories you are clearly not listening to at home, since she needs to prattle on and on and on and on to me. If you don’t want to watch these spawn, hire someone who does.

Arrested moment of reflection

The instant Peanut goes down for a nap, I fire up the computer. My goals are always to check email, to read the news, and to do some writing. Often I spend the whole time at amazon, but that’s an entry for another day.

Today the first thing I check is the CNN homepage. Staying at home with a small person makes me feel frighteningly isolated, and I often worry that nobody would tell me if the sky were falling, or there were a terrorist attack, or we’d finally gotten rid of the electoral college, or Kurt Vonnegut died (I’m still not over that I didn’t know for a few days about that one). Ten minutes into nap (not right away because I have to pee some time. When Peanut was a baby I never had time because I had to much to do. Now I don’t have time because..well, because I have too much to do. And because he barks at me, in two-year-old-ese, Mommy No Pee!! I don’t let him tell me what to do, of course, but I like to do what I need to do without someone hanging on me, whining at me, yelling at me, and watching me. Label that what you will.)

Anyway, ten minutes into nap, when I finally sit down, the lead story on CNN announces Randy Pausch’s death. I’m sure you’ve seen the lectures on YouTube , or the Oprah special, or something. If not, please do. I’m not generally a “live your life as though today was your last day” because I’m not that smaltzy and because even the people who believe that don’t really live that way all day. It’s a goal, fine. It’s a lovely sentiment. It’s just not me. But Dr. Pausch’s lecture was compelling in his message to his children. Well written, funny, warm. Parental. Not patriarchal. Not pedantic. Just darn parental.

And I’m sorry, so sorry, for his family that he’s gone.

As I read, I begin to think about the lecture, its meaning, my family, my life; and I get about 3 seconds into a life-affirming and potentially attitude-altering moment when my cats start going at it. Not just the afternoon wrestling, but serious, fur flying, yowling, painful fight about a foot from my ear. So much for thinking about what my family will mean to me when I’m dying—I’m deciding how to handle the little bastards’ intrusion into my hour of peace.

I coo at them, gently berating them to be nice to each other because, as I remind them, they’ll be dead some day and then they’ll regret treating each other so poorly. Not the best parenting, I know. But I use them as practice. I have to get out all the sarcasm, the clichés, and the detritus so I’ll get to the good stuff by the time Peanut needs perspective on why we don’t beat the tar out of each other while mommy is trying to freaking think about life and death.

If I was living the lessons of Sarah Napthali’s Buddhism for Mothers: a calm approach to caring for yourself and your children, I might have just observed the cats’ altercation, gently redirected them to more pleasant activities that respected their need to engage in physical activity, and guided my thoughts softly back to Randy Pausch, his family, his students, his life, my life, my family, my goals, my dreams, and my aspirations for making the world a better place. But I’ve only gotten a few pages into Napthali’s book and haven’t really internalized the whole “living each moment fully” central tenet of Buddhism. My moments for reading are few—during Peanut’s nap or nighttime slumbers, but only after I’ve tidied, washed and put away dishes, dragged Peanut’s bathwater out to the garden (screw you, Al Gore, Bono, and all the rich people who have “people” or technology to handle their grey water), swept, done a load of laundry, packed lunches for the next day, checked email, returned phone calls, paid bills, done client work, cleaned visible dirt, changed the litterbox, regretted not working on videos and photo albums, exercised, snacked, washed, brushed, and changed. So maybe in a few years, when I’ve read a few more pages, I can react more appropriately to the rude interruption during contemplation of Randy Pausch’s words.

Maybe I’ll think about how to live more fully tonight after I do a few things around the house. Or maybe I’ll save all the work for tomorrow, so I can spend all of Peanut’s waking hours doing chores instead of interacting. While I’m at it, I can regain my focus on writing, thinking, and being a whole person instead of being awash in the confusion, frustration, and giddiness of being a newish mom. I could push our toddler to the back burner and make some headway on my projects. But that would mean I hadn’t learned anything from Pausch’s lecture, and what kind of student would that make me?

(Okay, seriously, they’re going at it again. I can’t even wax semi-philosophical for a stinking blog without the cat bastards intruding into my otherwise tenuous grip on adult thought. Why, why, why didn’t I just adopt a newt?)