Saturday, May 28, 2011

Dante v. The World

Dante and Augustine in happier times
Judge: Court is now resumed. Dante, do you mind continuing your account of what transpired the morning of Friday, May 27th?

Dante: Yeah. So, you know I love to go outside on the back porch in the mornings, but normally I have to beg and whine a little. However, yesterday when the male slave opened the door without any prompting, I didn't think anything of it, I was just celebrating my good fortune! Augustine trailed out behind me, because I never give her opportunity to go first, instead seeing everything in life as a competition and shoving her aside or jumping over her, whatever is necessarity to win as befits her station, and after just a second or two, she started whining at the door. The male slave opened the door for her after a brief moment, and she scampered inside.

Judge: And what were you doing in this time?

Dante: Doing my part of the backyard watch, making sure the squirrels and birds knew their place. There may have been some tail twitching, some guttural noises, some frantic pacing. You know, the usual.

Judge: Continue.

Dante: So, I noticed after a few minutes the male slave opened the door again to see if I wanted to come in, but seriously, who would protect our backyard if I wasn't there?! My shift wasn't over, and I refused to slack off, like one other cat I know (*cough* Augustine! *cough*). And it's not like the male slave tried very hard. Now that I think about it, I think he only opened the door a sliver, and even had I wanted to end my shift early, I'm not convinced I had any chance to actually cross the porch and get through the opening before he shut it again without some crazy awesome ninja skills. Yeah, he's definitely in on this.

Judge: Let's avoid empty speculations.

Dante: So, finally, I figured it was probably time to chase Augustine for me to make my rounds of the house, and I ambled inside the next time the door was opened. And this is when it got ugly.  Immediately I knew something was wrong.

Judge: Proceed.

Dante: So I entered the kitchen, and there was a smell of tuna in the air. TUNA! I love that stuff! I'm not even sure I heard a can opener, so nefarious forces must have been at work to keep me in the dark. Fat chance of that! I sniffed and scoured the floor, but I couldn't find anything. So, anyway, it was clear there had been a dish...or two...on the floor with the beloved tuna water quite recently.  But not anymore.

Judge: Tuna water? Can you elaborate on that?

Dante: Sure. Well, the female slave sometimes gets out a tuna can. She hasn't realized it's only for feline consumption (as if!), but as she drains the water into two little cat dishes, even sometimes letting actual tuna chunks in the mixture, I usually let that slide. So, when all is right with the world, she sets those two dishes down. Now, I admit that usually Augustine is the first to spot this bounty, but through no fault of my own. She's just not keeping up with her kitty guard duties, so she's more likely to react in her lazy state.

Anyway, usually her speed alerts me that something's going down, and I join her. She tries to pick a bowl of her own, but it's up to me to see that she's chosen wisely. Usually she hasn't, so I shoo her away from the first bowl. And then I realize she might have tried to pull the wool over my eyes I forgot to do quality control on the second bowl, so I have to shoo her away from that one as well. Once I've established that both bowls are safe -- and it usually takes a couple passes back and forth, because safety is job one and I take it quite seriously -- I let Augustine know which one is hers based on whichever bowl has the least remaining is the least likely to be contaminated, and then we settle in with our lapping race. I usually finish first, and then it's my duty to help Augustine finish. You know, so she doesn't get a tummy ache. She's advanced enough in age that...

Judge: Hold on a moment. [Papers ruffle] My records show she's only about a year or so older than you. Is this correct?

Dante: Exactly. As I was saying, in her infirmity, she should watch what she eats -- and how quickly -- and that's where I step in and help her finish. 

Judge: So, yesterday you thought you smelled tuna in the air. What happened then?

Dante: Well, I didn't see any bowls with the evidence, but I bet if my slaves would have let me jump on the counter, I would have found them in the sink. But they looked as if nothing was out of sorts, although they were quite attentive to my actions, more so than usual, which should have tipped me off that they didn't have my best interests at heart. In fact, I've lost track of how many times the male slave has catered to Augustine, telling her how sweet she is, how pretty, how "good," and then he has the nerve to hold her up as an example to me, telling me I should be more like her. I'm so misunderstood in my own house!

Judge: You're off track, again. Please stick to the account of yesterday's events with minimal tangents.

Dante: So I went to Augustine.

Judge: Describe her, please.

Dante: Well, that good-for-nothing cat, she thinks she's all that, was sitting primly in the living room on the rug. She tried to look all innocent as I approached, like I'm dumb or something. And just because I'm polydactyl and there happens to be some anecdotal evidence -- planted, I'm confident of that, because anyone can edit Wikipedia, you know, and there are wrong things on the internet--

Judge: What did I saw about indulging in these unnecessary tangents?

Dante: Fine. Some individuals claim that cats with such traits happen to be a little slow on the uptake -- liars! -- they all think I won't notice. But my olfactory senses are beyond belief, I tell you!

Judge: Let's rein it in. Return to the point of the story where you approached Augustine yesterday.

Dante: [Grumbling and muttering under his breath about well-planted hairballs for a moment before composing himself] Seriously, this is an outrage; don't you want to know all the facts?! Whatever. So I approach her, and you know what happens? I sniff her breath, and anyone want to hazard a guess of what I smelled?! TUNA! On her breath! There are only a few ways that could happen. First, she could have a tuna fish that she's slowly licking to death. But I ruled that out. Because, seriously, where would she hide it? I know everything about our dwellings and all her hiding spots. So unless she found the elusive "second basement" I've heard in legend, there's no tuna fish she's keeping to herself. So I moved onto my second guess: that she hadn't cleaned since the last time we had glorious tuna water. But as I thought about that, I smelled my breath, and there was no tuna. Let me tell you, Augustine has this weird thing about being cleanly. After all, when I was brought into this abode, she had the nerve to imply that I was a mangy, ugly feline and needed a little help in the hygiene department. So if anyone was going to have residual tuna water breath, it was going to be me. And I didn't. My third guess was that my pending patent for a tuna-flavored breath spray had made it to market. But last I'd heard, it was held up in development as they tried to figure out how we could operate it without opposable thumbs (and, um, there's also some difficulty creating a container safe for consumption, since the test subjects keep trying to eat the cat spray once they catch a whiff). So I moved onto another thought, the most evil, darkest, and convicting of all. There had been tuna water set out for us, and she had drank not just one bowl, but BOTH bowls.

Judge: Did you confront her?

Dante: Why, yes, I did. I got up in her face, asking whether she had just had a treat in the form of tuna water goodness. And you know what she had the nerve to do?!

Judge: We're all waiting on pins and needles for your account, I assure you.

Dante: She LICKED her face! In front of me! She was taunting me, right there, her tongue licking her non-existent lips. It makes me crazy! Like I had this coming to me or something! Oh, boy, she better watch her back! Why, the next time we...

Judge: I think I've heard enough. We'll take a ten-minute recess, and I will relay my decision when we reconvene. And before then, I suggest you think long and hard about what has been shared here and conduct yourselves in a manner befitting these solemn proceedings, or I won't hesitate to throw this case out. We're adjourned.

Monday, May 16, 2011

A Letter to My Daughter: Eight Months Old

Dear B,
Your 8-month picture with the Giraffe

Yesterday you reached 8 months (I seriously have every intention of penning these on the actual date, but sometimes life has other plans). Anyway, there have been some big developments in the last month.

Physically, your eyes, which started out blue, now resemble more of a gray color, and when I look closely, I see flecks of gold, so I think they will end up being brown before long.

Your second tooth has popped out, and the merest point of it can be seen next to your first bottom tooth. You're still pretty ambivalent about food, but you have become quite the kisser. This consists of you pressing your opened mouth against our faces - quite messy, yet worth every slobbery streak.

Slobbery kisses in action

We're constantly entertained by what you do with your hands. Sometimes you fold them primly in your lap, and other times, they're outstretched and doing a series of interesting movements, starting with the palms up, then being turned around gracefully. The best thing I can liken it to is a Hawaiian hula dance. I'm sure you're just fascinated by what you can make your arms do, but it's quite amusing to watch them rotate.

Enjoying the warmer weather outside

You're still not mobile in the strictest definition of crawling/scooting/walking, but you can rotate yourself around from your seated position, and when you're on your back (but not so much your stomach), if we apply resistance for your feet to push against, you will impress us by mimicking a worm's movements.

Opening your Easter basket

We often fall into the habit of rocking you to sleep when you're teething and need some extra comforting, and then we forget we don't need to keep doing it once you're past the painful bout. This month found us trying to break ourselves of that habit. It's funny - I think you actually prefer to put yourself down sometimes. We might be trying to rock you and it appears you're fighting it as you squirm and kick, but if we then set you in your crib, you happily settle. There's a special little stuffed kitty (a gift from Grandpa Claire) we often give you, and you will hold it and coo to it until you drop off. Once in a while you fight putting yourself down so we rock you to sleep, but that's the exception rather than the norm now. This makes me feel like there's more time to the day; you might spend 5-10 minutes playing with your kitty in bed, and then you take your nap, which tends to be at least 30 minutes. And an added bonus - now that you're putting yourself to sleep, it appears you take better (and longer) naps. Lately, your first nap of the day is around 75 - 90 minutes, which was unheard of before. And now you are starting to take a slightly longer afternoon nap, too, perhaps another 75-90 minutes, which has been a welcome treat. Instead of four naps a day, we appear to have reached a point where you average about 3 naps. These longer naps give your daddy time to catch up on work or mommy a chance to sew, clean the litter boxes, etc.  We do adore time spent snuggling with you, but I can't complain about the opportunity to get a bite to eat or use the restroom instead of wondering when you might wake up so we can tend to those needs (during some naps you insisted on being held or else you'd wake up when we tried to transition you). It's good for your introverted parents to have brief solo times in between tending to you. It makes us better parents and more ready to introduce the world to you through play or walks.

Some of your wonder captured

You go back and forth with sleeping through the night. Sometimes you'll sleep through until 6:30, and other times you're up at 4 (or last night, it was 1 AM - ouch!). Actually, this is another change we've experienced in the last month. We used to wake you before we went to bed to feed you one last time, and this sometimes helped you sleep straight through. However, in another example of your parents being slow to pick up on your cues, we finally acknowledged that you were big enough to sleep through and had stopped appreciating being disturbed for one more meal; additionally, you seemed to wake at the same times, whether or not we'd fed you around 11 PM. So we phased those out, choosing only to feed you if you woke on your own. The first couple days you were conditioned to waking up then to be fed, so you'd sometimes get up as you heard us preparing for bed, but now, you fall asleep somewhere between 7:45 and 9 PM (depending on when your last nap was, how well you've slept that day, or whether we had evening commitments that you tagged along to) and wake up for the day around 7 AM, give or take. Again, there's sometimes a brief wake-up that occurs around 4 AM, but we all seem to be happy with this arrangement. Now if only Mommy and Daddy would go to bed earlier, we'd feel well rested. Unfortunately, we night owls are slow learners.

This past month also held Mother's Day. I have to admit that it was nice to have you around for that day. The past few Mother's Days have been bittersweet. Some people told me I was still a mother even though my arms were empty, but it was a hard day all the same, symbolizing what was all too short for us. I remember the first Mother's Day after we lost Katherine; our high school group decided to give flowers to all the moms, and I was touched that they remembered me (apparently in the planning session, one girl specifically said, "What about Faith? We're including her, right?"). It was emotional, but I appreciated that our daughter was still remembered by these students. This year, while I wished I could have celebrated with both my daughters at my side, I was reminded of how blessed I am to get to be a mother to you every day.

Our church holds a child dedication every year on Mother's Day, and we chose to have you dedicated publicly. It was a simple ceremony, but it was meaningful to be a part of. You'll have to pardon the picture, as the sanctuary was dimly lit. In actuality, such a ceremony won't change how we raise you, but it's a recognition of how we want to raise you, and it's an opportunity to acknowledge this in front of others. It also allowed us to admit that we want our lives to be centered around pursuing God and loving others in all we do and we aim to raise you in kind, however imperfectly. We trust our lives and actions will be a testimony for you to witness and hopefully embrace and we acknowledge that you are a gift and we are entrusted with your life.

Listening to the pastor

One of my favorite memories of this last month took place when you and I went to Panera to meet for coffee with one of my high school girls. The weather was so beautiful so we sat outside, you in a high chair. For starters, your heart sunglasses, a gift from your paternal grandparents, were quite the hit. Honestly, I think everyone (male, female, young, old) fawned over you as they came and went. But that wasn't the memorable part.

"These glasses get me so much attention!"

What brought me joy was when you felt the breeze on your face - you doubled over in laughter, and it was so contagious and just wouldn't end. It was the most sustained laughing I'd heard from you yet, and it was so absolutely precious. I wished several times I had my camera on me so I could have taken a video. You're now starting to laugh on your own with little prompting. Just tonight, you were giggling (kind of in a fake, forced way, though) as you buried your face into a pillow and smiled coyly at me; I think it's a sign of you developing the ability to laugh socially.

No matter where we go, people are constantly telling us how beautiful you are, and we can't help but agree. We are so struck with your perfect features, although I joke that we'll have to ban such talk around you in a year or two so you don't become vain.

But let's ignore the superficial characteristics. I just want you to know what a joy it it to be a mother to you. You are such a darling and I can't imagine how things could be improved any more - we have such an easy time being parents to you. You are mellow and entertain yourself with solo play. You are curious about the world around you. You don't fuss; other parents are surprised after observing you, and they insist that you certainly can't be like this all the time, but you really are. Sure, a teething bout here or there, or some passing annoyance if we take away something prematurely. In every area, though, you are so perfect. Your personality is a welcome complement to ours and your presence in our lives adds so much.

The biggest adjustment has been figuring out how we retain ourselves while caring for you. We weren't under any pretense when you were born; we knew it was a big transition to parenthood, and it does take much of our attention. But we still strive to hold onto our original activities when possible (volunteering with the high school group, my knitting night, even our hobbies to some extent), and while it's an evolving experiment, I think we've settled into something comfortable.