Snapshot – a linky!

Update for bloggers: I’ve made this a linky. Tell me yours! Check out the link at the bottom.

 

Listening to: The Hamilton soundtrack (all the time) and a thunderstorm (right now).

Watching: Liberty’s Kids on YouTube (Dash and Mabel). Torrential rain (me). At other times, The Crown and Orphan Black.

Playing: Jacksmith on Coolmath Games (the kids, on devices). Seems to be good.

Cat looking at small fluffy cat toy thing

Oak contemplates a toy, for the very much killing of

Reading: The Hammer of Thor (Dash, by himself, though he’s heard it before); Harry Potter book 1 (Mabel, by herself, she’s heard it before many times; we’ll see if she sticks with it because she has a history of starting books and never finishing them). I also just finished reading Charlotte’s Web to Mabel, which at 8 she’s finally the right age for, given that Fern in it is 8 and also that we’ve started it twice before but it never held her interest. We’ve started The Long Winter by Laura Ingall’s Wilder now; I was warned that it’s fairly traumatic so we’d taken a break from the Little House books for a while. It’s nice to go slowly through a series instead of blazing through it (like we’ve done with all the Rick Riordans). Personally I’m between books at the moment, though I did treat myself to the new editions of NODWE and Hart’s Rules, for professional development reasons.

New Oxford Dic. for Writers and Editors and New Hart's Rules

Aren’t they lovely? No? Just me, then?

Looking forward to: The Oscars. (Ok, fine, mostly just me.)

Drinking: A nice cup of tea. At other times, white wine because the weather’s so unseasonably warm.

Wearing: Sandals. In February. Which is all wrong.

Cat playing on the kitchen floor

Birch, bravely killing a thing

Eating: A fancy macaron my husband brought me because he went to the mall and I didn’t.

Working on: Final layout for the print version of book two. Yay.

Permanently frustrated by: The mess.

Big mess in the family room

Exhibit A

Enjoying: The cats.

Not enjoying: The fact that one of the cats may have ringworm but I can’t bring myself to isolate him in the basement or keep him away from his brother so we’ll probably all get it. I tried to at least keep him out of the bedrooms, but Mabel doesn’t want to sleep with her door closed so they get in anyway… (NB Ringworm is not a worm. It’s a fungal infection. We are treating it topically and waiting for lab confirmation before getting medication. I am over-optimistically hoping it’s some other little random patch of ick.)

At least the rain’s stopped.

View out the rainy window - wet deck but brightening sky

 

Furbabies

On the kittens’ first or second night here, I was a little wound up. I tried to identify the feeling – that sense of stress and weight was vaguely familiar. I didn’t like to admit it, but it was a milder version of the way you feel when you bring the new baby home, plus a little sense of put-upon-ness that now I was responsible for two more lives, in a way that I hadn’t really mentally prepared for because when assembling the feeding dishes and cat litter and various objects that we’d need, I had forgotten to account for that.

Two children bending heads over a cat on one of their laps

We‘ll do everything, the kids said. We’ll empty the litter tray. We’ll feed them. No, I said; you say that now, but I’ll be the one in the house with them all day. I’ll end up doing it. As I raked the litter tray for about the seventh time on that first day I thought of it again, a tad resentfully. Then I went and ordered a bigger tray from Amazon, because I already felt confident in knowing more about the sort of thing we needed. Higher sides because they like to power-drill down in the litter. More space because they’re not teeny weeny kittens, they’re more like demi-cats.

The first two nights, we put them back in the carrier and closed them into the larger cage (with food and water and the small litter tray) to sleep. I thought they’d want to get out, that they’d wake up multiple times, like babies, and yowl. They didn’t. They were cosily snuggled up together when we came down in the morning.

On the third night they were hard to catch to put away, so we left them out. They were fine. Nothing went bump in the night. I woke up a few times, alert, waiting. But nothing happened. They’re not babies after all.

Two cats snuggled up together on a chair

Catswirl

I put them back in their carrier and took them to the vet yesterday, for their introductory checkup. I put the carrier on the front seat turned sidways so they could see me, and strapped it in with the seatbelt. I felt a little silly, but I didn’t want them to freak out, and I felt sorry for them because every other time they’ve gone somewhere in a cat carrier they’ve arrived at a new home. They had no way of knowing that this time they’d be coming back here in an hour or two, that I wasn’t just passing them on.

Sometimes I ascribe human emotions to animals. I probably shouldn’t do that so much.

As I pulled out of the driveway, trying to minimize bumps and take corners gently, I was irresistibly reminded of coming home from the hospital with newborn baby Dash, in deepest Texas, when B said he drove more carefully than he ever had before.

Here I am, adulting, I thought. Now we have a vet, as well as a pediatrician and a dentist and an orthodontist and an ophthalmologist and a dermatologist and a pediatric dermatologist and a psychologist and a chiropractor. (And we’re very healthy people.)

Cat stretching out one paw

Reaching out

Now the kittens start to purr when I walk into the room. It’s like the baby smiling at you and making it all worthwhile. I felt an undeniable mini-glow of pride in the vet’s waiting room, when other pet-owners admired them and said how good they were and I agreed. I rooted for them to do well in their physical exam, and flinched when they got their shots, and snuggled them and talked to them as we drove home, back to the home that is theirs now, with the people who are theirs now.

They’re finding the places they like to hang out. They don’t hide under the sofa much any more. You’ll find them on the stairs, one on the top step and one halfway down looking through the bannister. On the IKEA chair in the sun. On the soft brown blanket on our bed. In the corner of the front-room sofa. Not, ever, in the cat bed or the box I prepared for them, of course. I knew that would happen. We’ve had them less than a week, but it feels right to have them here.

I have furbabies now. At least I don’t have to take them with me to the supermarket, though.

Animal house

We have kittens now. I’m going to have to update my About page.

Apparently this is what bloggers do when their kids get too old to blog about. I’ve already put one of the kittens in my Facebook profile pic. From now on you’ll only see my children in photos if they’re accompanied by cats.

They’re settling in quite nicely. They’ve certainly made themselves at home on the IKEA furniture.

They were a bit confused when everyone except me disappeared on Monday morning, but they got over it.

They enjoy boxes, pens, human fingers, and peeing fifteen times a day. They like to meow pitifully for no apparent reason even when they have plenty of food and water and snuggles and I’ve just raked the litter to the perfection of one of those zen sand gardens. They have sharp little claws that get hung up on everything (scratching post coming ASAP). They do full-body purrs as soon as you pick them up, and they fight like my children but then happily cuddle up together at night.

One of them is on my lap right now, biting my elbow and popping up every five seconds to see if he can help with the blogging. He’s very helpful.

In other news

Well, it’s been what, ten days? So obviously we’re all used to the new world order now and we’ll stop whining because our guy (girl) didn’t win and we’ll just go home quietly and go about our business.

Or we’ll keep calling our representatives and writing postcards and planning marches and keeping the channels of actual facts (not alternative ones) open, but we’ll also talk about the same old stuff because that’s the new normal and we’ll be here for as long as it takes.

So in other news that its not fake, Mabel and I took a trip to the county animal shelter last Saturday. We’d been down to the local shelter a few times since announcing the big cat decision, but while they have several adult cats and four (four!) bunnies right now, they don’t have any kittens. I know that the kitten stage is very brief compared to the cat stage, but I think we should get to have it. And I feel like they’ll be more ours if they start out with us. So off we went to the bigger shelter that’s about half an hour away instead of just down the road, and lo, they did in fact have kittens.

The place was buzzing with visitors, and one of the three littermate kittens we found there already had two applications, so I will admit that I did feel a little under pressure to act swiftly lest we lose out; but on the other hand, here were two perfectly dotey kittens and what else was I waiting for? We filled out an application and left it in the lap of the gods. (That is, the well-organized office system, I suppose.)

Have you ever stopped to appreciate the smoothness of your gums? I bet you haven’t. But if you ever have occasion to spend two weeks with stitches in your gums, you’ll really enjoy the feeling of unfettered tongue-running-over when they’re removed. Just by the by.

So then on Tuesday after school we went out there again for Dash to meet the kittens (a requirement of the adoption process is that all the kids in the house interact with the animals) and today they called me to say we can pick them up on Saturday. We have a big dog crate all ready for them so that they can be safely confined in the living space and get used to the environment before they get free rein. (This was a suggestion in the cat book I got from the library – it seemed like a better idea than shutting them into the spare room where nobody ever goes or the basement that’s full of junk.)

The kids fought over who got to clean the base of the borrowed crate once we set it up, and then they argued again over who would get to clean out the litter box first. I think I should have recorded that one. They are really, really excited about this.

 

Diversions

It’s very hard to sort out summer camps when Donald Trump is stopping legal residents of the USA from entering the country to come back to their homes and families and pets and belongings.

It’s difficult to concentrate on what we might need for new kittens when the president has barely been in office a wet week and he already seems mired in a bunch of power plays that might end in war.

It’s tricky to think about school re-enrollment forms when people are about to lose their health insurance, their ability to medicate chronic illness and keep their children alive because the ACA has been repealed with no replacement.

It’s confusing to wonder how I’m going to attend my best friend’s wedding in Italy this summer when people are being indefinitely detained at airports in spite of the stay on the order.

It’s hard to make pancakes for breakfast when I keep stopping to wonder if Trump has enough support in the armed forces to be a military dictator.

It’s hard to remember to print out Mabel’s passport photos and arrange to get her Irish passport application witnessed while noting that actual Nazi Steve Bannon was slipped onto the National Security Council as chief strategist while we were all busy watching the airports yesterday.

It’s going to get worse before it gets better.

Still confused


I spent Saturday feeling guilty for not marching and watching the photos of all my friends who were at the march, happy and pink-hatted, brandishing clever signs, many bringing their kids to be part of history.

On Sunday I told myself to stop whining to myself and just promise I’d go to the next one.

Today’s Monday and things are confusing again, because the march had too many white women who like pumpkin spice and not enough intersectionality and I made a couple of political posts on Facebook and I probably said the wrong thing and it’s naive to wish we could all just get along and see each other as a person instead of a cog in the giant wheel of their group/race/culture/class/religion/gender/sexuality.

For someone who prides herself on her words and her diplomacy, I have a long history of saying the wrong thing to a response of resounding silence. When I was twelve we were all painting pretend graffiti at summer camp. I added “IRA”, because that’s the sort of thing you saw in graffiti. I didn’t mean I supported the IRA. Obviously. But it went down the wrong way entirely. I still have conversations in my head where I try to justify that.

Any time I try to talk about racism or politics I probably say the wrong thing too. Please understand that I’m trying to do better and I want you to tell me when I say something that drops with the sound of a million clashing discordant cymbals.

This is what I know. My two children spent their most formative years understanding that it was normal and good and right for a man with a big smile and brown skin and tight curly black hair to be President of the United States – a man who looked more like a lot of their schoolmates than like them. Now they are learning the hard truth that the person in charge of the country you live in is not always someone you are happy to look up to, and not always someone smarter and kinder and wiser and better than everyone else.

I think they already know very well that it doesn’t always make sense to choose the person who looks more like them – as a friend or in an election. We choose people for better reasons than that.

Tuesday.

The sun came out today for the first time since the Obama administration, which was nice and all, but was not reflected in any metaphorical way by the new president being any less awful or doing anything less terrible than all those things we were afraid he’d do, and a few more to boot.

But it was nice to see the sun, I suppose.

dinosaur and dollhouse mom at a desk together

I don’t have a picture of the sun so let’s let this represent the education secretary nomination and the EPA.

How does it feel?

The new president was sworn in a couple of hours ago. I didn’t watch. I didn’t listen. I don’t like the sound of his voice or the look of his face and I certainly don’t like hearing any of the words that come out of his mouth.

Mabel and I ended up playing Monopoly this morning, since she’s off school and still in her pyjamas. It was delightfully retro, but it also felt a little like preparing for the new world order. There was a slight hysteria about buying hotels and snapping up property. Well, maybe just for me.

How does it feel right now? It feels confusing. In spite of my lofty aims to stay off Facebook, I’m on Facebook. I’m not looking for news, but sometimes it comes at me. The climate change page has disappeared from the White House website. So has the LGBT rights page. Are they just preparing to replace them with something even better? Something the same with the new name on it? Are they hoping we’ll forget?

Remember in Back to the Future when the guy in the 1955 diner says “Ronald Reagan? The actor?” when Marty tells him who’s president in the future? I feel like that guy, except I’ve been here the whole time. It’s still utterly surreal that someone could show up, decide to run for president, win nomination, win the electoral colleges, become president – with no experience in politics, no knowledge of how a country is run, no human decency, no integrity at all. How can that happen? How did that just happen? He said “You can do anything you want when you’re rich,” and apparently it was true.

I’ve been blogging for so long that I can tell you exactly how I felt when Dubya was re-elected. I was sorely disappointed, but then I shrugged and said that the world keeps turning.

This is different. This is not normal. This is not business as usual. The world is still turning, Obama said it’s never the end of the world until the end of the world; but it’s all wrong.

Frankenstein

I’m cradling a cup of tea in my hands (in between typing) but I’m afraid to drink it. I think I have to wait until it’s lukewarm, and I hate lukewarm tea. I’m looking at a sheet of instructions that tell me “do NOT spit, floss, rinse, chew hard food, sticky food, consume hot food or drink, drink through a straw…” and wondering how this is meant to work.

I’ve taken a sip. It’s not too hot but it’s a little warmer than lukewarm. I think it’ll be okay.

The inside of my mouth looks like Frankenstein’s monster. I got home at 11:00 but it took me two hours to look in the mirror because I didn’t want to see it. I had a periodontal procedure. If you don’t want to know any more, skip the next paragraph, where I will describe it at your peril.

I had a gum graft, which means they take some tissue from the roof of your mouth and sew it on to the bottom of your teeth where you should have gum but you don’t because your gums and or teeth are stupid and useless. They did it on four bottom teeth in a row, because for some reason that may or may not be related to my orthodontic work as a teenager, the gum there was eroding badly.

It was a “simple” procedure that took an hour in the chair and only a few more injections than your basic filling. It didn’t hurt, really, but it was awkward and uncomfortable and icky and I’m glad it’s over. Now I have three different sets of pills (anti-inflammatories, painkillers, and antibiotics) and a follow-up for next week, and I’ll be getting a fancy night guard so that I don’t push my teeth out of alignment again. I’m hoping this lasts until I’m 90 so I don’t have to worry about it again. Maybe 100.

Anyway, I’m sure you didn’t want to know that, but that’s what’s on my mind so that’s what you got.

Another thing on my mind is Saturday’s march. I really don’t give a crap about Friday’s inauguration, since it’s happening and I can’t stop it so I’m just going to ignore it. La la laaaaa. Don’t feed the troll by paying attention to him. That’s what he thrives on. But the next day there’s this big march you may have heard of planned for downtown DC. A lot of people are planning to go. Even people who don’t live here are moving heaven and earth to be there.

I’m a woman. I live within spitting distance of Washington DC. I certainly disagree with Trump’s presidency and all he stands for. But I don’t want to go.

That’s my gut reaction. I’m not usually overly crowd-phobic, but the idea of all those throngs of people just sets off my internal alarm bells. And someone on the radio this morning helped me figure out why else it is that I have the don’ wannas about this: it’s not the end. It’s as if many people have focused on this march as an end in itself: but for one thing, its aims are sort of fuzzy and nonspecific – to show Donald just how many people will show up to let him know they don’t like him; way more than will have shown up the day before to say they do – and for another, January 21st is not the end. It’s the beginning. Maybe I think I should save my energy for the four years to come. Maybe I think I should do something more concrete than going out and walking around to show my displeasure.

Maybe I’m just lazy; that’s always an option. Since I’m right here beside DC, I practically feel like I’m as good as there whether I go or not. I feel guilty about not wanting to go, but I’m not going to go just to stop myself feeling guilty.

Anyway, that’s where I am. And where I’m not. Pass the ice cream.

Capprehension

Because we were travelling this Christmas, we did our official family present ceremony the weekend before, when Mabel got her big huge Playmobil thing and Dash got his scooter and B and I exchanged some things that were partly almost identical (but complementary). So on Christmas morning itself the kids weren’t expecting anything beyond their stockings until the big dinner with cousins later in the day. So, the stockings were ransacked, the oranges discarded, the chocolate eaten before breakfast, the small items admired or ignored… and that was it. Except we did have one more thing: an announcement.

No, I’m not pregnant. Don’t be silly.

The announcement was that when we got back home we would commence looking for a kitten. They were pretty excited about that. Mabel spent much of the rest of the trip saying “kitten kitten kitten kitten” at us for days at a time and saying we shouldn’t have told her because now she would obsess about it until we stepped off the plane. I cautioned that we would not be dashing straight to the kitten shop and getting a kitten the moment we got home; that this was simply the beginning of being open to finding a kitten.

And so it has been, because the animal shelter doesn’t have any kittens right now. (Yes, the irony. When we visited in the summer they had baskets of kittens, more than anyone needed; but it seemed that everyone had been adopted for Christmas. There were hardly any animals there at all.) We’ve taken a couple of books about cat care out of the library, I’ve nosed around PetSmart to see what there is in the way of litter trays and cat carriers, we’ve agreed that the ideal would be, in fact, two sibling kittens, to keep each other company and spread the love a bit. There were even two sibs at PetSmart (which offers adoptions, they don’t sell bred kittens), but they cost twice as much as the shelter and I didn’t fall instantly in love with them and the next time I looked one of them had gone so that was that.

It’s possible that I’m overthinking this. But even if we go to the big county shelter (on my list for next weekend … maybe) and they have bushels of kittens, how do you choose? These animals are going to be part of our family for years to come; can we just grab any two that look cute? Or the only two they have, if it’s like that? Perversely, I don’t want to get two more grown up cats whose personalities are already established, because they’re someone else’s cats already, not ours.

So, in short, I want some choice but not too much. I want a kitten (and its sibling) to choose us, so that we know we’ve chosen the right ones. I want a sign from the Cat God. (Is that Bast? I think it’s Bast. Dash would know, because he’s read Rick Riordan’s Egyptian series. He says they’re not as good as the others.)

But anyway, look out for some cute kitten photos on a blog near you, coming soon. I hope.

Girl sitting on a log wearing a sweater with a kitten faces print.

Mabel’s new top has kittens all over it. This was a coincidence, I promise.

Lagging

New Year’s Day
I feel vaguely as if I’m coming down with something but I think it’s probably just the jet lag, or the time displacement, or whatever you want to call it when you’ve had enough sleep but you’re five hours out of kilter. Yesterday we went to a kids’ New Year’s Eve party, which is a lovely tradition we seem to have become caught up in, and was just the ticket for us, because we got to count down and release the balloons and sing Auld Lang Syne at about 7:15, and we were home by 8:30. Whereupon three of us went swiftly to bed and one decided he was going to stay up and stick it out no matter what. Around 2am I heard noises downstairs and investigated to find a morose ten-year-old who had unaccountably been unable to keep his eyes open after 10:45 and had missed the whole thing. Since midnight here was 5am in Ireland, where we were until two days ago, I’m quite surprised he managed to stay up that long.

I have a 2000-piece jigsaw on the go and mostly I’d have liked to spend all day staring at it but instead we went out to a New Year’s Day party this afternoon, which was probably the best thing to do because there’s nothing like being in a room full of friends and watching your kids running around in a pack with all the other kids they know to remind you that it’s not so bad to live in a place you don’t come from, if the place you get to live in is this one.

There’s always that touch of the blues that comes with the return journey for me, that makes me wonder why we do it, why we leave what’s so right and familiar and is part of our bones and our souls – the sea and the sky and the stones and the trees – to come to this other place that has all our stuff but none of our history. Except it has all the history of our children’s childhoods now, and as our lives are entwined with theirs, so our futures and our pasts must be too.

Mabel just asked me why we can’t have someone deliver the pizza, instead of going out to get it. I made noises about it being quicker, and it being hotter that way, and because we can, but really it’s because if we got the pizza delivered, America would have won and stolen our souls. (Never mind the fact that people in Ireland also get pizza delivered.)

The day after
Today I feel properly woozy, as if I’m on a boat, or as if I just got off a boat and the world is still rocking. I keep having cups of tea and eating unhealthy things to make it stop, but so far only going back to bed for a while has actually helped. Now the boys have gone off to Rogue One and Mabel and I are watching Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire with a large bowl of popcorn.

My jigsaw met an untimely end, for now – but the good thing about jigsaws is that even when they’re broken they’re not actually broken. I’ll take it out again some time when it’s not the last day before back to school and small tempers aren’t so frazzled.

I’m starting to crave properly healthy food like lemony broccoli and yogurty dressing, but all I could throw together without a trip to the supermarket was roasted sweet potato wedges and chickpeas, with halloumi draped over them. Not bad, but a little dry.

Tomorrow, back to school, back to fresh air and exercise and normality and reality and some writing. It’s going to be good. Here goes, 2017. Don’t fuck it up for us.

Mossy tree beside a small river.

A picture from our walk in Powerscourt three days ago and half a world ago.