My Parenting Philosophy in Three Words

Maybe I’m not such a great parent after all.

My parenting philosophy can be summed up in three words. “Keep Expectations Low.” I need that on a t-shirt. Because I’ve never taken them on vacation (Go ahead and judge me. I am TERRIBLE!), I don’t have to do much to impress the boys. They’re better off that way.

I could drive them around the block and show up at the YMCA, and they’d still think it an exotic vacation if they get to:

  • play video games in bed until 11pm.
  • enjoy cable TV – although Squish learned that having 50 channels doesn’t guarantee that there is something to actually watch. It was a hard life lesson for him.
  • get snacks from a vending machine
  • continental breakfast, whether it boasts a waffle maker or dog turd sandwiches.
  • swim in a pool – and let me tell you, size does not matter. Our motel pool is smaller than the double bed in the motel room, and they still think they are Mr. and Mrs. Howell.
Source: Gilligasisle.com I'll let them argue over which one is Lovey, but neither of them wants to get their hair wet.

Source: Gilligansisle.com I’ll let them argue over which one is Lovey, but neither of them wants to get their hair wet.

One day, maybe we’ll actually get cable at home, and then they will NEVER leave! NAH!

The One Where I Admit I’m Negligent

You heard it here first. I am not a good parent. I let my kids down in a big way.

I’ve never taken my kids on vacation. Like, ever. Not once. The Girl-child is 19, and she’s never been away on vacation. She has been away from home, of course. All the kids have. To grandma’s, to camp, etc. But never away to do fun things for more than a night. Until now. It’s road trip time.

It is for the boys, anyway. The Girl-child is staying home because she has a job. And I have, like, a million pets. We’re hitting the road for St Augustine.

Last night, it all seemed like a good idea, a great one, even. I was so excited. We went to St Augustine as honeymooners 21 years ago, and we loved it so much. There are plenty of places we haven’t been, but if we’re going to leap into vacation, we should go somewhere we know. Or think we know. Or whatever.

In the light of day, the shine has worn off this particular idea. I didn’t go on vacation much as a kid. Why should my kids be spoiled? Also? Kittens. How do I leave this?

Pan-DOR-able. How do I leave this face and stay gone for 2% of her young life? I don't deserve her love!

Pan-DOR-able. How do I leave this face and stay gone for 2% of her young life? I don’t deserve her love!

This morning,  husband loaded the car with way too much stuff. I will continue packing things into bags until there is nothing left but the bare studs and a few good memories if I am not bodily removed from the premises. The goal was to leave at 7am

6:30 Squish wakes us up

6:40 Finally get out of bed

6:45 Look around for the clothes I laid out last night. I swear they were *right here*

6:50 Find clothes in exactly the spot I left them last night. My bad, husband. I didn’t see them. Don’t look at me like that!

6:55 Learn that husband does not, in fact, like my orange Minions shirt and never has. It’s like our whole marriage has been a lie.

6:56 Begin existential crisis.

7:15 Ignore horn honking in the driveway and check Twitter

7:18 Go out to move car.

7:19 Return to the house to get keys.

7:20 Return to house to get coffee

7:21 Return to house to pee one last time

7:23 Insist that everyone else go pee also

7:35 Get in car

7:36 Return to house to replace kitten who mysteriously appeared in my backpack. I don’t know how she got there, so stop looking at me like that.

7:38 On the road.

The trip was uneventful. Husband found a route that takes 5 fewer hours than our last trip, or maybe new interstates have been constructed in the last 20 years. The only blip was a visit to a benighted McDonald’s with the least attentive servers in history and a child at the table behind us whose shrieks could have peeled the paint off the walls.

We got here in before dark, but I suspect it’s going to be an interesting visit. Instead of a magical stay at a bed and breakfast, we’re at the bad end of town in a motel who lists “toilet” as one of its amenities. I was all excited, but my enthusiasm waned with the daylight. Suddenly it seems like too much work to leave the room.

It’s not all bad. The kids didn’t want to leave the room, either. They opted to send Dad out to bring back a pizza. I’m pretending that it’s a money-saving move and not because I don’t have the energy to fight traffic tonight. Time enough for that tomorrow, right?

I can’t sleep without a kitten chewing on my feet. I do hope that one of the boys is up to the job.

 

Servers So Rude

My actual conversation with a Chipotle server:

So beautiful! Source: Chipotle.com

So beautiful! Source: Chipotle.com

Her: You want anything else on it? Any salsa?

Me: I want guac. I know it’s extra. It’s okay.

Her: There is no guac.

Me: I want guac.

Her: There is no guac.

Me: How can there be no guac?

Her: Because you didn’t buy any. This is your house, Mom.

Sounds like excuses to me.

It's almost like I woke her up to roll my burrito. Oh, wait. I did.

It’s almost like I woke her up to roll my burrito. Oh, wait. I did.

 

Things That Are Better In Pairs

Things in life that are best when they come in a multi-pack:

  • Shoes
I couldn't wear these. I have the balance of a drunk newborn wildebeest.

I couldn’t wear these. I have the balance of a drunk newborn wildebeest.

  • Socks
Buy me these. I needs these. Source

Buy me these. I needs these. Source

  • Cookies. I’ll take two pairs of cookies, thanks. Make that a dozen!
I definitely need these in my life!

I definitely need these in my life!

    • Underwear. Although technically I am not sure I understand the concept of “pair of underwear.” Unless they’re counting the leg holes? Anyone know? Anyone? Bueller

      I don't understand "brief," either.

      I don’t understand “brief,” either.

    • Kittens.
How happy am I? Pretty darned happy!

How happy am I? Pretty darned happy!

 

Never adopt just one kitten when you can have two. I cannot recommend pairs of kittens highly enough. Especially little black ones. They have a harder time finding a home. The adoption organization we got the baby kittens from is the same one who matched us with Pixel and Bellatrix. They run specials on black cats and kittens because they are so hard to place.

Meet Pandora. She’s on the right. We adopted her the day after we got Ravenclaw. It was too hard to leave her behind. In theory, she was to go with the Girl-child to college. In reality, she is so bonded to her sister that I don’t think we can ever separate them. Sorry, Girl-child! Would you perhaps like a pony instead?

 

Don’t have the ability to adopt a cat or kitten? You can still help. Click the PayPal button on Happy Paws’ website to donate. Even $5 buys some cat litter. You can even sponsor the adoption of the cat or kitten of your choice so someone of lower income may be able to take home a best friend for life. No, I am not being paid to advertise. I just think this rescue does a great job!

The Best Question I Have Ever Been Asked

Zookeepers get asked a lot of questions. It’s part of the job, and honestly one of my favorite things.
Yesterday morning I was bent over unclogging a tube in the bog turtle rearing exhibit. I heard a family approach the fence, and the mom began reading the graphics aloud to her young son.

“Looking into this exhibit,  you may be looking into the future of bog turtle conservation…”

The little boy looked at me through the peeking window and said “Are you real?”

I assured him that I was. His eyes got huge as he took the words on the graphics to heart.

“Are you from the future?”

If Santa can break the space/time continuum, why couldn’t a zookeeper? We are made of magic and cat hair.
My forefinger. Check out that expression! the eyes look white, but that's because the pupils are contracted. At night, they dilate, and those eyes are solid black!

My forefinger. Check out that expression! the eyes look white, but that’s because the pupils are contracted. At night, they dilate, and those eyes are solid black!

It’s National Zookeeper Appreciation Week. Have you hugged a keeper yet?

Things I Would Rather Do Than Re-Watch “Secret Life of Pets”

I took Squish to see “The Secret Life of Pets” because I apparently I didn’t learn anything from the whole “Finding Dory” fiasco.

Ravenclaw says save your money. Watch a kitten with a laser pointer instead. She's a harsh critic.

Ravenclaw says save your money. Watch a kitten with a laser pointer instead. She’s a harsh critic.

Things I would rather do than re-watch “The Secret Life of Pets”

  • Scratch my poison ivy (actually, this one is kind of cheating because scratching poison ivy is awesome. At least for the first week).
  • Take a bubble bath with a cat.
  • Read Game of Thrones.
  • Pick my nose.
  • Pick a stranger’s nose.
  • Play Roulette blindfolded with five cups of lemonade and a cup of cat pee.
  • Watch full coverage of the Republican National Convention without a bathroom break. While drinking cat pee.
  • Redecorate my house in Early Hairball.
  • Write an entire blog post with Alpha-Bits cereal.
  • Watch colonoscopy videos in 4-D.
  • Live out the recurring nightmare of walking down the hallway of my high school naked.
  • Misuse punctuation.
  • Listen to “Achy Breaky Heart” scratched out by fingernails on a chalkboard.
  • Kiss a monkey.
  • Give up eating fresh cherries for the rest of my life.
  • Give up eating MoonPies for the rest of my life. Yeah, it was that bad.

 What is the worst movie you have seen this year?

It’s hard to be brave

Kids are weird. Anyone who tries to tell you differently is kind of missing the whole magic of childhood.

Anyway, I’ve lost my share of sleep dealing with odd things.

Padawan_001

The Padawan looking innocent. I assure you, he is not.

This one? He used to get me out of bed to complain that his stuffed shark, Hammer, was singing to him. Don’t suggest that he let Hammer sing him to sleep either. “You don’t understand,” the Padawan would lament, night after night. “He’s singing jazz!” Touché, little man.

And this one?

The Girl-child, back in the day. But not ALL the way back in the day because those photos are on old fashioned negatives.

The Girl-child, back in the day. But not ALL the way back in the day because those photos are on old fashioned negatives.

She used to scream that Sharp Tooth was coming to get her. Sharp Tooth? The T-Rex from that adorable fright-fest, “The Land Before Time?”

So here’s a new one on me.

“There’s a werewolf!”

“Uh, we talked about this before. There’s no such thing as werewolves.”

“I saw one.”

“It’s not a werewolf.”

“WEREWOLF!”

“Where?”

“There!”

“I don’t see it!”

“There! Just now! It moved!”

“I see it. It’s not a werewolf.”

“No, THAT OVER THERE! WEREWOLF!”

“Not.”

“IS!”

“Baby, for the last time, it’s not a werewolf. I know it’s not a werewolf. That’s the dog.”

NOT a werewolf. Despite what you may have heard to the contrary.

NOT a werewolf. Despite what you may have heard to the contrary.

“You sure?”

“I’m really, really sure, Ravenclaw.”

I don't think she believes me.

I don’t think she believes me.

 

The One Where I Make a Big Announcement

First let me say that I was as surprised by the ending to this story as you are. It was not exactly expected, but I’m also not sad at how things have turned out.

I called my husband from work a few Saturdays ago to tell him that Spider-Man*** and Captain America were coming to the zoo to sign autographs. Every, single pretend play event like this is a reminder that my boy is growing up. And I grieve.

“He may not be interested,” I said over the phone. My heart said “Please, God, let him want to come.”

“And he might not want to wear a costume,” I added, in the second phone conversation. “Please, God,” my heart cried. “Let him want to wear a costume. Just one more time.”

“And you might want to get here early,” I said, on the third call this time. “Because it gets really busy, and it’s hot, and the heroes might want to take breaks.” And I may never again have a little superhero who dresses up and comes out, ready to fight crime and drink a cherry Slushie.

My heart is hungry for those one more times. One more time to play dress up and pretend. One more time to belly laugh over Snoopy and his silliness. One more time to crawl into my lap and call me “Mommy.” One more time to ask for help tying a boot. One more time to look with wide-eyed innocence at a world too big and too scary.

And I couldn’t take the pain of the one more time. Because what if it never showed up.

On that sunny Saturday, it did. Dressed in his Captain America best, with the cardboard shield his brother and sister had made for him, he trip-trapped up the sidewalk, ready to conquer the world and have his picture taken. He greeted me coolly, and I could see it in his eyes. That one last time is fast approaching, and one time soon will be the last time for both of us because he is the last, the youngest. Why does it feel so unfair?

Here I stand on the precipice of The End,  when it seems like the The Beginnings were only about 10 seconds ago.

I made baby Squish Harry Potter. And I'm not sorry.

I made baby Squish into Harry Potter. And I’m not sorry.

 

Don't ask. I don't know. He looks like he's having fun, though, doesn't he?

Don’t ask. I don’t know. He looks like he’s having fun, though, doesn’t he?

That shield in an heirloom. And it has seen some action.

That shield in an heirloom. And it has seen some action.

Somehow, this kid went from Baby Harry Potter to playing guitar naked to Captain America with the heirloom shield in about a minute. Kids grow up. I know that. I’ve always known that. But he was my last one, and I wasn’t ready.

I thought I was done. I thought the yearnings for a little one would cease by my age. I’ve said for years that I’m done. No more. I’m ready to not have babies. And I was wrong. My husband didn’t feel quite the same as I, but we talked. And negotiated. And talked some more. And he was reluctant but willing.

So I have an announcement to make. We waited a while before telling everyone, and we haven’t even told all of our family and friends yet, but I have some big news.

We got a kitten.

My kitten summed up in one photo. "Hey! You busy? I'm not in your way, am I?"

Ravenclaw summed up in one photo. “Hey! You busy? I’m not in your way, am I?”

Wait. What did you think I was going to say?

***I just learned how to spell Spider-Man correctly so that Spell-check doesn’t yell. Be happy for me! Or very sad. It has only taken me 44 years.

The Confession That Will Make People Hate Me

It’s been a while since I made a confession here. People like confessions. That might be why my most popular post ever was this one. So here it is.

I am not a cat person. What is that I hear? It is the sound of thousands of people running screaming to the “unfollow”button. It might be my neighbor actually screaming. She has a problem.. But there you have it. I’m not a cat person. I am a dog person. Dogs come in all shapes and sizes and are bred with an actual purpose in life. Golden Retrievers hunt, Rottweilers drove cattle to market, Schnauzers were ratters. Cats all look relatively the same, and they have the work ethic of a salted slug. Cats are fine, but I am not a cat person. Because reasons.

Cats are self-absorbed.

They never let you forget that they are number one in their book.

She sleeps hugging herself. No one loves Pixel like Pixel.

She sleeps hugging herself. No one loves Pixel like Pixel.

Cats are entitled.

They take what they want, even if it’s yours. Food, furniture, the good spot on the bed. It’s all theirs.

Cats are lazy.

They will rub your nose in it every chance they get that you have to earn a living, and they do not.

Cats are destructive.

They will tear your heart into tiny pieces when it’s time for them to leave you.

It's been over two years, and not a day goes by that I don't miss you, Piper. I love you, old lady.

It’s been over two years, and not a day goes by that I don’t miss you, Piper. I love you, old lady.

What I Learn From My Cat

You’ve met Pixel. She’s an adorable, evil genius. This is the cat that can open the oven to get to the pizza. Be afraid.

She looks ready, doesn't she?

She looks ready, doesn’t she?

This is Mousie. All felt and innocence, with maybe a touch of catnip.

This is Mousie. All felt and innocence, with maybe a touch of catnip.

Meet Mousie. Seven-year-old Squish picked Mousie as a toy for Pixel. I didn’t think the cat would touch it with a 10-foot pole, but what do I know? Clearly nothing, because Pixel has a slight obsession with this toy. The cat with the work ethic of a salted slug is all about playing fetch with the mouse.  Or is she?

One day I watched Pixel flip and flop while she played with her toy, and I noticed something really odd. Let’s see if you notice it, too.  Click the first image to create a slideshow and read the captions. They’re the crux of this whole thing.

I couldn’t figure out what she was doing at first. She pawed and scratched at the glass like she was trying to tell me that Timmy fell down the well again. But Lassie she ain’t. You and I BOTH know she would leave Timmy in that well in a skinny minute if saving the kid  meant a long run up the hill to fetch Pa. I watched a little longer, and finally it dawned on me that what she was after was Mousie’s reflection in the back of the china cabinet.

Pixel spent a solid 10 minutes trying to get that imaginary mouse, to the point of kicking the real Mousie out of her way so she could put her best effort into getting to the one in the mirror. The one that isn’t real. The one that she will never be able to have, like Narcissus withering away longing for that beauty he can never possess.

I’ve said for a long time that this cat is almost human, and this incident kind of proves it. How often have we chased after imaginary greatness, ignoring the treasure we already possess?

This story has a happy ending. We discussed Pixel’s work ethic. 10 minutes of effort was all she had in her. She didn’t wither and die. She eventually forgot about reflection Mousie and went off to do what she does best – sleep.

So what imaginary mice are hiding in your mirror? And how do you let them go?