Monday, January 30, 2006

For Clyde

A neighborhood cat died a week or so ago, probably hit by a car on a busy street. He lived next door until last fall when his owner was evicted, though he was always an outside cat.

Clyde was a lanky piebald beauty, an aloof gentleman who trotted along the sidewalks with a feline pal or two by his side. He never played, yowled, or allowed me to pet him, but on one magical night I spied him rubbing noses with two other cats and a skunk in a trans-species show of affection.

Clyde's death makes me recall a favorite Marge Piercy poem:

The correct method of worshipping cats

For her name is, She who must be petted.
For her name is, She who eats from the flowered plate.
For her name is, She who wants the door always opened.
For her name is, She who must sleep between your legs.

And he is called, He who must be played with until he drops.
He is called, He who can wail loudest of all.
He is called, He who eats also from your plate.
He is called, He who sleeps in the softest chair.

And they are known as eaters and rollers in catnip
Famous among the nations for resonant purring,
Feared among the mouse multitudes. The voles
and moles also do run from their shadow.

For they perform Cossack dances at four a.m.
For they stick their faces in your face and meow.
For they sit on the computer monitor to monitor your work.
For they make you laugh with their silly acrobatics
but their dignity is that of the oldest gods.
Because of all this we are permitted to serve them.
We are the cat servants, some well trained and some ill,
and they give us nothing but love and trouble.

Friday, January 27, 2006


I keep forgetting to say how rad my dad is. He's a Physician Assistant who recently earned a doctoral degree in health science, and he just accepted a position teaching Master's-level health science students all about health policy. But get this--he wrote his doctoral thesis on LGBT adolescents' access to health care. And now he's getting it published. AND he lobbied successfully to change the paperwork in his clinic to make it more respectful to LGBT patients.

A daughter couldn't be more proud.

Pants on fire

So I heard part of the Today Show while I was cleaning the house before the kids arrived, and all talk turned to Oprah's most recent interview with James Frey. Everyone was all, "Oprah ripped him a new one!!! It was a bloodbath!!!" Now because I also caught a few minutes of Access Hollywood last night, I'd seen some of the interview. It was pretty ugly--she got all supercilious and called him a liar and he got all cagey and defensive. It was like watching a wrestling match between a heavyweight champ and some kid from the local junior high--Frey got clobbered.

I'm still a little confused on why this is such a newsworthy event.

Okay, it's true that Frey embellished some details in his memoir. It's also true that memoirs are supposed to be nonfiction. However, they're also personal narratives, which means they're completely subjective and edited for maximum effect. When I read Frey's book over Christmas, it never occurred to me to take him at his word. It's not because I'm cynical or a supersleuth, either--it's that the book is one dude's account of some really shitty times in his life. It doesn't make any difference to me that he changed some details and embellished others; the book itself is based on factual events, and that's the whole point of a memoir.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Maybe she has a tapeworm?

Yesterday I felt all proud of myself (in a Martha sort of way) for making loaf cakes to give to our friends. Sadly, I think we all know what pride "goeth" before. In case you missed Sunday school that year, it goeth before the discovery of kitty teeth-marks in your beautiful, tender, cling film-covered vanilla cake.

We adopted Josephine, Devourer of Cakes, from the Medfield Animal Shelter on Thanksgiving, and she's apparently a 25-pound cat trapped in the body of an 8-pound cat. My girl loves to eat! She's batted the spoon out of my hand several times for foods as disparate as spaghettios (don't even question why I was eating spaghettios) and chicken soup, and she goes wild for muffins, cakes, breads, and, as I discovered just now, buttermilk biscuits. She's a fiend for the homemade baked good.

Here's a scary story about Josie: It was midnight when we returned from Christmas with my family, and we saw that Josie's belly was hugely distended. We freaked out a little and called the local vet school's 24-hour emergency line. The vets on the phone told Petunia that Josie "almost certainly has FIP, a serious disease that's always fatal in cats." WHAT? We'd just lost our beloved little kitty Madeleine in September to complications from a routine dental surgery, and now they're saying that Josie's going to die of FIP? Being very Type A, we googled FIP. Here's a tip for you: don't look up FIP if you have a cat in your life. Just don't do it.

After lots of back-and-forth with the vets (during which time they said they couldn't guarantee she'd make it through the night), we discovered that half of the food was gone from Josie's 8-pound food container. We realized that Jo had eaten approximately 4 pounds of food in 3 days. We felt a little better about Josie's FIP diagnosis, and we decided to take her to our own vet in the morning.

The next day our vet weighed her and discovered that Josie was 1 1/2 pounds heavier than usual. She laughed at Josephine's moxie, telling her she needed to let out her belt and not indulge quite so much over the holidays. Most importantly, she reassured me that Jo is in great health. Amazingly, Josie's digestive system compensated for her Iams binge--she never got sick from it, and within 2 days she regained her slim figure.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

I must be butter*

Here's what I love: weddings! We just found out that our friends have chosen the date of June 25 for their wedding, and I'm v. excited. We're up to 5 wedding invites for this year, which beats last year's tally by 1. Even better, of the 4 weddings we'll be attending, 3 of them are in Massachusetts. Also fabulous: I already have a dress for these weddings! I wore it 4 times last summer and I'm wearing it 4 more times this summer. Tacky or not, chances are good that if you invite me to your wedding, I'll show up in that very same dress**. Good times!

On a different note, have you read Julie & Julia? I know it sounds like a Naiad Press title, but it's that memoir by a woman named Julie who spends a year cooking up every recipe in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. [Side note: Julia Child was a Smith alumna!] I was thinking about it this morning because I made a couple of loaf cakes from my beloved Cake Mix Doctor book and, as always, considered what it must have been like for the Cake Mix Doctor herself to test each of her v. tasty recipes. Yum! But back to Julie & Julia: I thought it was highly overrated. It's a great idea for a book, but Julie presents herself as a histrionic nutter who talks WAY too much about cleavers, marrow, and offal. I know it's French cooking, but gimme a break!

*'Cause I'm on a roll.
**Okay, this isn't the actual dress I chose. Are you kidding me? I'd be scared to death to wear a halter top! Mine looks just like this from the front, though--it's a v-neck with a normal back, and it's terracotta with red accents.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Frosty sings the blues

It's official: there's nothing fun about making a snowman.

I'd remembered it as one of those charming wintertime activities that leaves you rosy-cheeked and longing for hot chocolate, but in reality it was a miserable hour of backbreaking labor that left me sweating profusely and longing for ibuprofen.

First, there's the rolling. You start out with a tiny ball of snow and ice and you roll it around your yard until it grows into a massive boulder of snow, ice, dirt, and dog pee.

Then, there's the stacking. You lift a 40-pound ball of slippery "snowball" onto its larger (and dirtier) mate, all the while trying to avoid dropping it on the heads of unsuspecting toddlers.

Finally, there's the decorating. Now, y'all know I'm a crafty gal, so you might think this part would be fun for me. I thought so, too, but wrong-o! I was out of full-length regulation-size carrot noses and had only baby carrots; these were deemed "too small" by my 2 1/2 year old creative director. Pressed, I decided that celery would have to suffice. Once we got it out there, however, I realized I'd made a terrible mistake. Our snowman looks awful. It's the ugliest snowman on our block. It's even uglier now after some melting: its pinecone eyes and celery nose have fallen off, leaving a gaping wound of a proboscis and no facial features whatsoever. The kicker: the prettiest snowman on our block lives next door. He's like 12 feet tall and carries a broom. Ours is 3 feet tall and wears a bandanna (I didn't have a scarf handy). He looks like a Bloods member (and, in fact, he informs me that "Frosty" is his gang name).

A final note about snowmen: I'm sick of them being men. My creative director rebuffed my original idea of making a snow-reindeer, and he didn't like the idea of making a snowwoman any better. Next time, however, I'm throwing a diva fit and we're going to do some gender-bending. High heels, ball caps, even bandannas--the new rule is DIY when it comes to snow-creatures. MINI snow-creatures, I mean.

Monday, January 23, 2006

I heart Mr. Snowblower

A note about my neighborhood: it doesn't look like much, but it's a great place to call home. We got a foot of snow this morning, and right now my sidewalks are completely clear thanks to my neighbor A. and his handy dandy snowblower. When we bought this house a year and a half ago, A. introduced himself and told us, "Now when it snows, I'll take care of your sidewalks. I've been doing it for years, and I'm happy to do it." Talk about a good neighbor!

Armor amore

I stand corrected about the Higgins Armory Museum: it was really neat! They have an impressive collection of 16th and 17th century arms and armor, including dog armor (perhaps Clary B. would like to be an armored dog for Halloween?). The museum is really artifact-focused as well, rather than all that knights-of-the-round-table Sisyphus crap I thought it was going to be. I'd forgotten how much I love going to museums with Petunia. Also, it was free thanks to the Worcester Public Library's museum pass program. I love free stuff!

Another really neat thing about the Higgins was this special exhibit called The Armor Series by Helen Meyrowitz. It was a collection of 10 canvases featuring different masks used in war from medieval times to the present. It was beautifully curated and incredibly thoughtful, and I find myself thinking a lot about the ways in which Meyrowitz juxtaposes life and death in the series.

This weekend we also ate at a couple of outstanding local restaurants, the Blue Cricket Bistro and the Cedar Street Restaurant. We don't eat at fancy places very often (in fact, we've eaten at exactly 3 fancy places in the 7 years we've been together, and one of those was a gift certificate from friends), so these were a special treat for us. I just reheated my leftovers for lunch, and they were almost as good as they were the first time around. Yum!

Our weekend wasn't all fun and games, though. Yesterday afternoon we learned that a former client of Petunia's, a 16-year old boy, died unexpectedly earlier in the week. His calling hours were last night, so we trekked out to metro Boston to pay our respects. Friends of ours also worked with this young man and have known him since he was a preschooler, and they were heartbroken. It was so difficult to see our friends in such pain. I wanted so badly to do or say something that could make it better for them.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Luddite no longer

Here's a photo of our sweet and sassy dogger, Clary B. See how I did the whole "upload" thing and didn't even screw it up? Not bad, eh?

Now I'll try to make a link to a website I love. Check this out for rad photos of nutty kitties.

Hey, I think that worked! Check me out--I've gone all IT! This concludes the flurry of posts for the day.

Let sleeping kids lie

Can I just say how much I love naptime? The kids are sleeping like angels, including my new little girl who's been averaging 1/2 hour naps. So far they've been asleep nearly 2 hours and counting! What a lovely gift for a lovely Friday afternoon.

Nasty smell, nasty thoughts

This morning I took the kids to the playground and forgot that I had a batch of muffins in the oven. Fortunately, we were only gone an hour and the muffins didn't even get smoky. Still, there's the distinct smell of char in the house. It's quite unpleasant. Will Febreze make it worse? We're about to find out....

While at the playground, I found out that my neighbor, a woman with 2 kids, no job, no partner, and a back disability, is pregnant again. She found out she was pregnant in the fall and said it was a sign from God that she's meant to have a little girl. Then she thought she miscarried, but today she told me that all is well and that she's about 12 weeks along. I don't even know what to make of this news: I'm glad that she's happy, but I know that another child will stress her already precarious living situation. I'm jealous, because it's so easy for her to have a baby while we have to wait until August to even apply. I'm mad, because she doesn't have great parenting skills and has even had DSS involvement for her 2 boys. I wish I could just ignore it, but she lives right next door. It brings up all these ugly issues for me--who's "better" than whom, who "deserves" to have a child, etc. I don't like looking at myself in this light.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Time flies

This new year is kicking my ass! That same instinct that makes you want to turn over a new leaf has made me want to improve my business. I've subscribed to a software package that allows me to do my bookkeeping without too much effort, plus I've created a "print-rich environment" for the kids (don't you love early childhood education jargon?). I've enrolled a new child, had a portfolio review, hung kid-decorated shapes from the ceiling, and added a box of dinosaurs to my toy collection. I've followed suggestions for cold and flu prevention, sung dozens of children's songs, made a picture book from scratch, and clipped diaper coupons for parents. More often than not, I feel strong and positive about the work I'm doing. I can't believe it's already the 19th, though. At this rate, August will be here in the blink of an eye!

In August we're reapplying to become adoptive parents through DSS. We tried last summer, but it turns out that DSS and the EEC (the folks who administer family child care in MA) have different regulations regarding the number of children you can have in your home who are under age 2. Bottom line: EEC allows 3 kids as long as one or more of those kids is 15 months and walking, while DSS only allows 2. In August my second youngest FCC kid will turn 2, so in August we'll be able to reapply for adoption.

After going through many months of anger and sadness about this arbitrary rule, I'm starting to feel hopeful and eager again. If January can whiz by so quickly, so will the rest of the months until August. I don't want to wish away the time, either; I'd rather appreciate the time we have pre-baby. We have a lot of work to do re: financial issues, so that'll be the first thing I'll tackle. I want to start tonight--maybe I'll make a small pot of coffee after work and get busy.

My next few days won't be all business, though--Saturday is Petunia's birthday, so we're going to out with friends tomorrow night to celebrate. On Saturday I've planned a whole itinerary of fun, including a massage for her at our local school of massage therapy, a trip to the armory museum (snore, though she'll love it), snowtubing (our 1st time ever, so look out below!), and v. fab lunch and dinner. I was thinking of running out early in the morning for breakfast, flowers, and maybe even a cheesy balloon. What a nice weekend this will be!

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Blogging 101

A few years ago, I read that keyrings are symbols for our adult lives. At the time, I carried a half-pound combination work-home megakeyring and prided myself on the continuity between my personal and professional lives. Then everything changed.

Work got ugly and I left that job for a one-year fellowship at a local nonprofit. My wife and I bought a house and moved out of the city; as my fellowship drew to a close, I decided to open my own business, a family child care program I would run from our home. A year has passed since my first baby started full-time (my tiny mewling 2-month old is now a 14-month old toddler: imagine!), and the symbolism of keys continues to strike me.

On my Smith College keyring (now 8 years old): one house key, one car key. That's it.

Friends joke that I have the shortest commute ever. It's true, and I love it. I also appreciate the dress code at my workplace: jeans and long-sleeved shirts or sweaters this time of year, shorts and t-shirts in the summer. However, I don't appreciate the lack of respect that comes with running a child care program in my home, nor do I welcome comments about "babysitting." As with anything, there are pros and cons. For now, the pros have it by a wide margin.