Monday, July 28, 2008

Mad Drivin' Skillz

Guess who failed her written NC driver's license exam? After a three-hour wait at the DMV spent trying to entertain a one-year-old in a crowded waiting room?

I was not smart enough to accept Ryan's offer to hold Piper during my test and stupidly thought I'd be okay with a crabby, squirming toddler on my lap as I attempted to answer 25 multiple-choice computerized questions. He passed his test, of course. I missed 6 questions, which is a FAIL. It kept asking me oddly specific things ("If you are going 45 MPH, do you put your turn signal on 100, 200, 400, or 50 feet from the spot where you intend to turn?" "How many points will you receive if you commit X offense?") or things that had more than one possible answer in the choices given. So a few days later, we dragged ourselves out of bed early in the morning and spent another 1.5 hours in the waiting room so I could re-take it. I barely passed (missed 4 this time), even though I had spent a couple of days studying the info booklet. Out of 25 questions, at least 7 of mine this time were on the points system. Those were the ones that got me. I have no idea how many points you get in NC for a second drunk driving offense. I don't know how many points you get for X MPH over the speed limit, either. Or Y. Or Z. I guess the computer handing out questions thought that if it kept asking me, eventually I'd somehow manage to pick the right answer.

I do not understand why I only squeaked by, since I am a much less-scary driver than my husband. If someone cuts me off, I do not take it as a personal insult against my family line, nor do I retaliate by cutting anyone else off. I also don't scream and pound on the dash board, or bemoan the fact that there are other cars on this road what are they doing here why are all these people driving on this road WHY WHY WHY?! Nor do I swerve violently on the road because I am trying to retrieve my can't-drive-anywhere-without-it GPS device from under my seat, or because I am playing with the iPod and changing it from my wife's relaxing drive-time playlist to an album full of emo-screaming that sounds like it was recorded by 11-year-olds in someone's garage.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Under Construction

I know I took a hiatus for a while. I apologize (again) and promise (again) to put in some work here. I also apologize (again) for the (repeated) barrage of back-dated posts. It's all part of my blog remodel.

I have dropped our pseudonyms, because they were getting cumbersome. So henceforth I shall be known as "Steph," in case any of my 1.3 readers ever come back this way.

I have changed the look of this thing, and am still tinkering with it. I will also be inserting more back-dated posts. Please forgive me. Right now, I am trying to keep 4 blogs and 2 photo sites updated, and I just can't do it any more. So this flury of activity is in preparation for my transition to using this blog full-time, instead of the afterthought it has been.

The dust will settle eventually, I promise.

Thursday, July 10, 2008


We are doing better. It helps knowing we did the right thing for him, and while my feelings about God or other higher powers are somewhat fuzzy, I'd like to believe that he has gone on to a place where the shrimp buffets are endless and there are more than enough laps to go around.

I will share this, which proves either that we were recovering already or that we are sick, strange bastards:

It started to rain as we pulled out of the vet’s parking lot. The baby was asleep two blocks down the road. The rain quickened on the six-minute drive home, until we could barely see the turnoff to our street. We pulled into our driveway and Ryan turned off the car. We waited, the only sound the metallic noise of rain pounding the car roof. Piper emitted a baby snore from her position strapped into the car seat. The “biodegradable casket” that held Gandalf Mack-Max rested on the seat next to her. It was cardboard, a little bigger than a shoebox, with a rounded top and handles in the sides. Cut out handles with a backing behind them, so you couldn’t see inside. The vet had taped the lid on with white surgical tape wound completely around the box.

We sat there, in the driveway, with sheets of water pouring onto our quiet, still car. We waited for a break in the rain, so we could all get from the car to our front door without getting soaked. We would have to leave the small box on the front porch for the moment; we had no garage to keep it in, and we couldn’t bury him in the rain. And anyway, we didn’t have a shovel. Tomorrow one of us would walk up to the hardware store around the corner, but they were closed now.

Ryan glanced into the back seat. “I kind of wish we could give him a Viking funeral,” he said. “It seems somehow appropriate.”
“Well,” I said, “the Catawba River is right over there.” I pointed behind me and to my left.
“So it is,” he answered.
“Although they may have some ordinances about setting your dead cat aflame and sending him downstream.” I surprised myself and chuckled.
He joined me. “I dare them to prove it was us.”
“And I don’t think Joon will want to travel with him.”
“Screw her then, she’ll never get to Valhalla.”

And we both laughed in our quiet car as the rain poured down outside.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

"You're Doing the Right thing"

That was what the vet said to us yesterday, as she stroked his bony gray head, her hand close to mine. We didn't know this vet, I just called them because they were closest to our house. And she (and her staff) turned out to give us the best experience we've ever had at a vet's office.

We brought him in, unhappily caged in our purple cat-carrier with the improbable Easter stickers all over it. Getting him in there was horrible. I had opened Piper's closet to get something, and he darted in, all the way to the back, and lay down behind some boxes. He wouldn't come out. I had to tear half the stuff out of there to get at him. He cried and splayed his thin, fragile limbs when I went to put him in the carrier. I shut the door and he cried again and pressed his face to the wire.

I had been home with him all day, watching as he moved from place to place in the house, trying to get comfortable. He appeared to doze but never sleep; he never curled up and crashed out the way the other cats did. Sometimes he followed me around, and I petted him and kissed his head and wiped way the foul-smelling fluid that drained from the corners of his mouth. Sometimes I cried a little, but not as much as I had on the phone that morning when I called to make the appointment.

We had told the vet what we knew - that he and another cat insisted on being outside, that they had both started to slim down and while the other cat leveled out, he just kept going. He would disappear for a couple of days, hang around the house for a few hours, then go back out. Until Friday, when he came in and I picked him up and found that he was not merely skinny but skeletal. He wasn't eating, he didn't want his buddy Mei-Mei to snuggle with him. One side of his face looked swollen. We watched him over the weekend, tried to tempt him with canned cat food, shrimp, and roast beef. But he just got worse, and fast. His breath started to smell terrible, and by Sunday he was drooling something that was not drool.

We had debated a lot over the weekend on what to do. When he was diagnosed with Feline Leukemia two years ago, they told us that some sort of infection or tumor would most likely be what got him. We wondered if we could fatten him up and get him some antibiotics to kick this. We wondered if he was going to die, and if he'd be better off at home, or if we should take him in.

On Monday, when Ryan got home from a teaching conference, I told him that I didn't think it was going to get any better, and it wasn't going to be quick. We had to take Gandalf Mack-Max in and have him put to sleep.

So I called the unknown vet and got an appointment, and after we were led into an exam room one of the assistants came and asked us questions about what we wanted to do with the body (we opted to take him home, in a “biodegradable casket” that was really a glorified cardboard box) and if we wanted to be with him when they did it – things I hadn’t even thought of. I answered between sniffles.

Which is how we arrived at that moment, the vet and I petting him as she softly told me that no, he wasn't going to get any better. Given his FeLV status and the smell, she thought it was a necrotic tumor. It couldn't be cured, he couldn't get better, she said, and we were doing the right thing for him. Gandalf Mack-Max looked a bit worried and made half-hearted attempts to jump off the table, but mostly he lay there with the weary, pained look he'd been wearing for days. He purred and nuzzled my hand.

So I told her we were ready and that I wanted to be with him when it happened. She had an assistant come in and we all held him while the vet tried to put in an IV. His blood pressure was so low she had trouble getting a vein. I knew then that she was right, that the infection was hopeless, and I felt a stab of guilt at our three days' worth of debate. I was sorry it had taken us this long to help him.

The vet found the vein and gave him the first of what she had explained would be two drugs; number one was a sedative, he'd relax and feel calm. Number two would simply be a high dose of anesthetic, which would stop his heart.

I felt him relax under my hand as the sedative reached him. He felt so calm and warm and I started to cry. I told him I loved him. Then the vet administered the second drug. It didn't take long, his system was so wrecked. He was gone in a few seconds.

They gave us a few minutes with him, and then they came and got him ready for us to take home. The kind veterinarian walked us out to the car and said they would mail us the paperwork, we didn’t need to worry about any of it today. She gave me a kind pat on the back and, on impulse I hugged her and thanked her. She hugged me back and said I was welcome.

And then we took him home.


A long, long time ago, before we ever even thought about having a baby, I found these wee little socks at Target. They were Halloween socks, 90% off, which made them less than a quarter. So I bought them and took them home, because cats in socks are really funny.

Gandalf Mack-Max was the only one who would let me get anywhere near his feet with these things. And once I put them on, he just sat there like that. For over an hour.

It was easily the most amusement I ever got out of $0.25 in my entire life.

RIP Gandalf Mack-Max, 2003?-2008

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

This Is Not My Best Day Ever

I just called and made an appointment to have our cat Gandalf Mack-Max euthanized.

I feel like I could cry for days.

The lady on the other end of the phone at the vet's office was very kind and patient with my sobbing.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

57 Weeks

Words, words, words. Words that sound like real words, words used in context. Shoes. Bunny. No no no. Book. Kitty. Dude. And of course, eyes. She is still obsessed with eyes. “Eyyyyyyes,” she says as she touches her own. “Very good!” we tell her. “Now, where are Mama’s eyes?” “Eyyyyesh,” she says, gently (or sometimes, not-so-gently) touching my eyelids. “Where are Daddy’s eyes?” “Eyyyes,” she says as she touches Ryan’s. We ask her to touch Daddy’s nose, Mama’s nose, Piper’s nose. She has about a 90% success rate on the noses, and maybe 75% when we ask her about mouths.

She can find her doll’s eyes, though, and she carries it around saying “Eyyysh….eyyyyes….eysh” as she pokes at its face. “Is that your baby?” I ask her. “Bee! Bee! Bee…a-beee,” she says, holding the doll out for me to kiss. We give her a stuffed bunny to play with in the car. “Is that your bunny?” we ask. “Bunny,” she echoes happily.

We’re really going to have to watch our mouths.

We upgraded her to the big-girl car seat recently. I was kind of wistful to see the carry-along infant seat go, but it was pretty useless at this point. It was too heavy to carry around without disturbing her (you try lugging 20 lbs of baby + 15 lbs of seat around smoothly), it was hot, and she was getting tired of facing backward. So we lugged out the Britax seat a friend gave us and belted it in forward-facing. She was thrilled to be able to see out the windows, and I think even more thrilled to be able to see us. We can turn around and see her now, and we always get a huge grin from her when we do. I can also stave off meltdowns by passing back small bits of cookie when I just need five more minutes, Piper, PLEASE, we’ll be there in five minutes, okay? Owing to the effectiveness of this method for distracting my car-hating child, a tub of Trader Joe’s Cinnamon Schoolhouse cookies now lives permanently under the front seat.