I still miss him terribly. His photo sits on the ledge over my kitchen sink, right beside the clay mold of his paw prints, which the emergency vet's office took of him following his passing.
At times, I still think I see him walking around the house, until I do a double-take and realize it's either Chubbie or Claudia, one of my two other cats.
His death has left a giant hole in my heart.
I bought this stone for his grave in our backyard. I had the kids paint rocks to place around it. Several times a week, I sit in the chair I've placed nearby and remember him.
Those who say, "He was just a pet" have obviously never loved an animal.
This blog celebrated its 6th anniversary on July 5th. I hardly feel like it's worth noting this past year, since posting has been so sporadic. But there are a handful of you who have been reading here for many years, and that's something worthy of recognition.
Thank you for reading. Thank you for sticking around here when my posts have been few and far between. One day I'll start writing with greater regularity again. I miss writing here.
So, what's been going on?
Well, these two are *this close* to being potty-trained, at least during the day. Luci is ahead of Nicholas in the "waking up dry" category. Potty-training 2 two-and-a-half-year-olds has not been the complete nightmare I thought it would be (although this is probably because the hubs has taken the reins on the majority of the training, as he did with Isabella).Yes, there are times when I am awash in bodily fluids (and solids, sorry) and it is chaotic shuffling between the two of them and who needs to go and who prefers the potty chair to the potty seat fitted over the toilet in the bathroom, and Oh My God, do NOT stand up mid-stream, but we're getting there.
This one is *this close* to swimming. After two weeks of swimming lessons, she now jumps in on her own, goes underwater on her own, and even "swims" underwater on her own. No floaty life jacket needed all summer long. She still needs help on stroke technique and proper breathing, but after some private lessons later this summer (she took group lessons at my gym's pool), I'm hopeful she'll be very close to independent and actual swimming.
All three of the kids were in my cousin's wedding over 4th of July weekend. Surprisingly, no one ran screaming down the aisle. They performed like little trained monkeys, making me question who swapped out my Twinsanity for two robots kids.
And I donned a fancy dress, and posed with my sister for posterity, because the last time I was this dressed up, I was getting married, 10 years ago.
My job is going well. For the past 6 weeks, I've been working on copy for my health club's new website (launching Friday), instead of working on the social media strategy and training for the social media managers at each of the clubs. But the site launches Friday, and soon I'll return to doing my "real" job. I'm heading back to Chicago in August to train 10 social media managers on the new strategy. Jaime and Tracey: what are you doing the 3rd week in August???
And that's about it. The summer schedule is in effect here, with Isabella in camps most of the summer (this week, it's "Discovering Plants" at our science museum, followed by Jazz Camp at a music school next week). Luci and Nicholas are even going to a week of camp with the hubs the last week in July. I love, love, love our science museum's summer camps.
We have no summer vacation plans, but maybe you do. Allow me to live vicariously through you.
Where are you headed?
And as a veterinarian in the emergency vet's office, a place I had promised him I would never take him again, after his inoperable diagnosis on New Year's Eve, pushed the medicine to send Louie to kitty heaven into his vein, I whispered in his ear over and over, "I will love you forever. I will love you forever."
In a matter of seconds, he was gone.
It has been a long goodbye.
Since his diagnosis of vaccine-associated fibrosarcoma in November until early May, Louie's decline was slow. The tumor on the scruff of his neck was growing, but his behavior was unchanged.
It opened up at times. Small, nickel-sized pockets in the center of the beast that would claim his life, but two weeks of antibiotics would clear up the open wound and the underlying infection. He was eating. He was drinking. He was snuggling with his mama, Chubbie, just as he did every day, on the ottoman in my office.
In early May, things started to change. His tumor began to spread rapidly. It began to open up much larger than it had before. It was draining and had an odor. And Louie, a kitty who had never been very sociable, and who only emerged from hiding after the kids had gone to bed for the night, suddenly was around all the time.
He began sleeping in strange spots, places in the house he never visited before. He developed a slight limp, a sign that the tendrils of the tumor were wrapping themselves around the scapula bone of his shoulder. He had difficulty climbing down the stairs.
And yet his appetite was good. Excellent even. He was eating all the time, from the feeding stations I set up around the house for him, so he never had to be too far from his food or water.
By the end of May, he had begun coming into our bedroom in the middle of the night, usually around 4am, and meowing. I began getting up, going downstairs, and giving him some tuna I had been buying for him. From that point on, every single night, he would come into our room somewhere between 2am and 4am meowing loudly. I would give him the tuna, and yet 30-45 minutes later, he would be back up meowing again. I would go downstairs, he would follow me, and I'd spend time with him on the kitchen floor. Brushing him, petting him, talking to him. I think he was lonely. Chubbie had stopped cuddling with him suddenly a few weeks prior.
Eventually, he would head to the adjoining dining room, curl up on his blanket I'd placed there once I saw that he had picked the location as one of his new favorite spots to sleep, and he'd take a nap. By this time, I was wide awake. It was 5am, and sometimes earlier. I rarely went back to sleep.
Two weeks ago, he started another round of antibiotics to see if the medication could get the infected tumor under control. At that point, I knew our goodbye would be soon.
It became clear about a week ago that the antibiotics were not working this time.
He had begun having accidents around the house. He was meowing at me constantly. He would sit and stare into space. He seemed restless and unable to get comfortable.
Last week, I called his vet and told him the antibiotics weren't working. He said he could prescribe a stronger one, but because Louie's cancer was incurable, it would maybe buy him a few more weeks. I thought about what to do for a day, and then called his vet and told him it was Louie's time to go. I didn't want to put him through another round of antibiotics, especially when getting him to take his medicine was so difficult for him. I could sense a more rapid decline this time.
I was waiting for Louie to tell me it was time. I think his cries, his plaintive meowing, were telling me to help him. On Wednesday, his vet was to come to our house and euthanize him.
This morning, I awoke at 6:30am and knew something was not right. Louie hadn't come into our room in the middle of the night, as he had been doing every night for weeks. I went downstairs and discovered he'd had an accident on his blanket. He was sleeping next to it. I gave him some tuna. He ate a few bites, and laid down in the spot where his blanket was (I had put it in the washing machine).
Once the kids got up, he headed upstairs. About half hour later, I heard the horrific sound of his small body tumbling halfway down the stairs. He tried to stand, and couldn't. He would take a few steps, and lay down. I felt his limbs and moved them, and he didn't react. Nothing seemed broken. I placed him on his blanket. My friend was knocking at the door to pick me up for a planned breakfast out.
I hesitated in my decision to leave. And then I did.
The text from home came about an hour later, telling me that Louie's limbs were twitching and to come home soon. We left the restaurant immediately. He was on the blanket where I had left him. Louie lifted his head to greet me. It was clear something was very wrong, and when the hubs came in from outside, where he'd had the kids playing so they wouldn't bother Louie, I told him we needed to get Louie to the vet.
He brought in Isabella. I was a mess, and together the hubs and I told her what she already knew. That Louie was sick. His body wasn't working. And then we told her that after right now, she wouldn't see him anymore because he was going to heaven. She was confused, but stroked his fur on his back one last time, and told him she loved him. Then the hubs packed up the kids and took them to my grandma's for the day.
I spent the next 15 minutes gently petting his head and body. He purred loudly. He was with me, responding to me, reacting to my touch.
And then all of a sudden, he wasn't.
His eyes turned glassy. His breathing was labored. His body was on the blanket, but Louie was gone.
His limbs went through spastic movements every few minutes. I was alone. And I was hysterical. I was losing him.
I called his vet's, which was closed. I then called the emergency veterinary office and told them we needed to bring Louie in.
It was time.
When the hubs came home, I wrapped Louie in his special purple blanket, and held him in my arms for half the car ride to the vet's, my tears coating his soft, gray fur. Midway there, we had to transfer him to his cage because he was agitated. Once there, we entered the same room I had been in when Louie received his inoperable cancer diagnosis. It had come full-circle.
The end wasn't supposed to come this way. I promised Louie I would never take him back there. He hated going, and our vet has made house calls for over 10 years for the cats' annual house calls because Louie hated making the trip. I wanted his end to come at home, where he felt loved and safe.
And yet in the end, we had to give him the gift of an end to his suffering in a place not of our choosing. I've heard from my sister and my friends in the past week how euthanasia is truly a gift. Our beloved animal companions needn't suffer.
This agony is part of sharing life with animals. Their lives, when compared to ours, are tragically short. And yet knowing this does not make the end any easier.
I know Louie had a wonderful life. He was able to spend each day of his 13 years with his mama, Chubbie, whom he adored, and his sister, Claudia. And while he was a skittish kitty, did not like loud noises and men, and only sought attention (until he got sick) when the kids were in bed for the night, and then only from me, never the hubs, he was given love and attention whenever he sought it.
And while he was never a lap cat, or even a socialable kitty, over the last two months, he was. This awful, horrible, pharmaceutical company-manufactured cancer, which Louie got from his rabies vaccine, took his life, but it also lowered his inhibitions. He became so much more of our daily lives because he spent his days on the main floor of our house, eating in the kitchen, sleeping in the dining room, and visiting the family room, instead of hiding upstairs until the house was quiet. The kids got to know him better. They talked to him. They pet him. They loved him.
And he loved them.
We took Louie home with us, and buried him in the backyard. The hubs bought a beautiful Japanese tree and planted it beside the grave. It is Louie's tree. The vet's office gave us a clay mold of Louie's pawprints. I have it sitting on the counter in my kitchen.
My heart is broken. I feel in so many ways that I let him down. I am full of rage over the how and the why of how he came to have cancer.
But these feelings won't bring him back. Instead, I take comfort in knowing he's no longer suffering, that he's in a body that's whole and not broken, and that he's scampering through heaven with my childhood cat, Cheena, and my mom's beloved dog, Chelsea.
I love you, sweet Louie. You will live in my heart forever.
There's been loads of work stuff (all good, though, since I am loving my job).
There's been kid stuff, and trying to juggle the kid stuff with the work stuff.
There's been running stuff (my new exercise schedule includes runs 4 times a week at 5:30am, before the hubs leaves for work).
And there's been Louie stuff. He is not doing well. Our goodbye is near, and this affects me so deeply that I cannot even write about it here. Not yet, anyway.
So today, I'm writing about my graduate.
Today was Isabella's last day of preschool.
She was so excited on her first day last September:
And today, this little girl headed off to the big K in the fall, is still as excited about school as she was when the year began:
Her end-of-the-year picnic took place this afternoon. She'll see a bunch of her preschool peeps in the school's summer camp, which runs three mornings a week next week and the week after. And of course, many of them live in our school district, so she'll see them at Kindergarten.At the end-of-the-year picnic last year, I found myself much more emotional than I was this year (and she was headed back to the same preschool at the start of the school year). Isabella had had such a wonderful first year experience, she loved school, and had made many friends, so I felt a certain loss for her. I was worried that maybe her second year wouldn't be as great. That she wouldn't love it quite as much.
But she simply thrived this year too, and matured in many ways.
I constantly think how lucky I am to have a child who loves learning and the structure of the school environment.
In September, she'll head to half-day Kindergarten. She'll ride the bus. She'll have much more structure, more routine, and higher expectations than she's experienced to this point.
And I think she's going to rock it.
And I also must confess that I've found microblogging a lot easier and more time-efficient. I can share a news story or an opinion on Facebook and quickly and easily talk about it with friends. I still want to continue this blog (which will celebrate its 6th birthday in July), but until I have a more regular schedule (ha), updates won't be frequent.
Now, on to the Dynamic Duo, who turned 2.5 two weeks ago.
We have officially entered the Land of Why.
Every dream Nicholas had came true a few weeks ago when we bought the boy a pair of red shoes. And of course, true to form, he is obsessed with them, and pitches epic fits when we try to get him to wear the more traditional pair of shoes we also got him, for those less-than-red-worthy occasions.
Nicholas creates elaborate bedtime story plots for me to tell him while I'm rocking him. Isabella also started to do this when she was about 2.5. His story de jour revolves around our neighbor, "Miss Kim," who takes Nicholas for a bike ride, then inside her house for a snack. He also asks for a story about a baby crab who is lost on the beach and looking for his mommy.
This one's got a vivid imagination.
He is still not napping well (he averages maybe two a week). I put him in his crib at naptime each day, though. He spends most of it yelling, "I'm tired!!!!!"
He absolutely loves to tell anyone and everyone who will listen about the grave injustices his twin sister imparts on him and others.
"Luci bit me on my arm, and pulled my hair."
"Luci hit Alyssa!" (Their babysitter.)
"Luci said, "Shut up!" (a lovely bit of language they picked up from watching Annie.)
Are you noticing a theme here?
This one (who looks like the living embodiment of sunshine and sweetness) has tiny little horns tucked under her mass of curls.
She is a button-pusher, or what my family likes to call "a scorch" (definition here).
Luci is not only fearless (she has begun to scale her highchair like a rock wall and plop herself into her seat with zero assistance from me), but she is stubborn, obstinate, and enjoys giving all authority figures in her life a symbolic "F-you." I see skull tattoo and obscure piercings, prison, or a CEO position in her future.
She is also the most physically aggressive of the three kids, which is something we're working on curbing.
Her bond with Isabella continues to tighten. She tells Isabella almost every day as she leaves for preschool, "I'm gonna miss you." The bottom lip comes out. There are tearful hugs. It is quite cute.
Potty training was attempted for approximately one day back in the beginning of the month. The hubs, who for the most part managed Isabella's transition to underwear, tried with Luci and Nicholas, but quit the next day. They will both go if you place them on the toilet. Sometimes, Nicholas will tell you he has to go, and will do so. But for the most part, neither tells us in advance that he or she has to use the facilities. The hubs declared them "not ready" and so we've kept the potty out and available, but it's not being used on a regular basis.
They must be trained by September, once preschool begins. Other than that, I'm not in too much of a hurry.
While these two are still high-needs, scream a lot, and fight like the Sharks and the Jets, times, they are a'changing. The number of moments during the day when I want to throw myself off a bridge because I can't take one more minute of their constant whining and crying are fewer. Whether that's a change within myself or as a result of their changing behavior, I haven't yet determined.
The older child, twin toddler mix is interesting. When Isabella is taken out of the picture (when she's at school or elsewhere), Luci and Nicholas are better behaved. When she's around, she tends to instigate them (and they, her), and sometimes all three argue over the most insignificant events.
That said, she also occupies them, directs them in some very fun games, and helps them get dressed, etc. And they absolutely idolize her too.
Current Likes: Her dinosaur stuffed animal, whom she named "Monster,"
Current Dislikes: Eating without a battle
Current Likes: Quinoa, finishing Luci's copious leftovers
Current Dislikes: Routine disruptions
I've freelanced (technical, marketing, and social media writing) and taught English and New Media online since then. I have been fortunate that the work has been steady, even in this economy.
But as anyone who holds a job and is also the parent to young children knows, it is very difficult to juggle work, family, and personal time. I often felt that I did neither of my "jobs" (motherhood and writing/teaching) very well. One always suffered because the other demanded my time. My office doesn't have a door. I was constantly interrupted. My childcare situation was basically non-existent. I worked 7 days a week, 7pm-midnight, and as much during the day as two sporadically napping toddlers would give me.
But beyond the time-management and logistical stresses of freelancing, beyond the fact that I had little-to-no time to run, to read, or just to veg out on the couch watching bad reality tv, was the fact that I was not enjoying my time at home with my kids.
The pressures of work existed simultaneously with the ever-present needs of my children. And while in my professional life I thrive on pressure and even enjoy it, I often felt like my kids were swallowing me alive.
And if I'm being completely honest (and if you're a long-time reader, you know that here, I always am), the transition from having worked full-time for 10 years to freelancing while staying home with first one, and then three children was really difficult. For me, motherhood is the hardest job in the world. I am not a natural mother.
Building endless block towers, changing endless diapers, and meeting endless needs are part of motherhood, but I had spent the 10 years prior to having Isabella working jobs that while not perfect, provided me with a sense of accomplishment and achievement. There are no accolades for a job well done in the motherhood. And while spontaneous kisses and hugs, cuddles, and stories told under warm blankets are awesome, I needed more than those could give me. Even though I freelanced and taught, I lacked that professional adult communication I needed. I lacked the feeling that I was contributing to something greater than a perfect peanut butter sandwich. I had abandoned a huge part of my pre-motherhood life, thinking that it was the right choice for me and for my family when perhaps it really wasn't.
Which leads me to this:
One of my freelance gigs is writing the blog for my health club and maintaining their Facebook page. They wanted to further develop their social media programs and asked me for a quote. A few weeks ago, they offered me a full-time job as the Social Media Director for the parent company that owns my health club and 10 others (9 in the U.S. and one in Montreal). It is an incredible opportunity about which I am ridiculously excited. There is some travel involved. I went to Montreal for one day a few weeks ago. In April, I'm headed to Chicago. I am engaging on a regular basis with really smart and educated people, who are eager to learn how social media can help their clubs. I'm at the start of something great that will hopefully change the way business and marketing is done in the clubs. The job marries my loves of fitness, writing, and new media. It's as close to perfect right now as it could get.
The job is remote, which means I can continue to work from home. They bought me an iPhone and an ultra-fast business-class laptop is on its way. I've finally, after so many years of winging it, hired a babysitter who comes in the afternoons, Monday-Friday. In the mornings, I either take the kids to my health club and work (or sometimes work out) there, or one of my relatives comes over so I can work. I still work many hours at night. It's not an ideal situation yet. I need more childcare help, and will hopefully figure out a better schedule soon, which will of course change again in the summer and again in the fall once school begins for the kids, but it's a start.
It's early days still. There are kinks to straighten out and adjustments to be made.
But I've long felt I would be a better mother if I worked full-time.
After several years of feeling like I'm drowning, I finally feel like I'm hitting the surface.
We have the same facial shape, the same eyes, the same (unfortunately thin and limp) hair, and until I recently chopped mine off, a similar hairstyle.
The older she gets, the more apparent the similarities are becoming.
And the older she gets, the more I enjoy motherhood. Of course, all ages have their special qualities (just please don't ask me to name any special qualities about the age of two right now), but (dare I say it), parenting Isabella right now is fairly easy.
The kid loves her routine. Take away her morning viewing of The Fresh Beat Band or her CocoPop after dinner and her head is likely to spin around while vomit spews forth from her lips, but in general, I can reason with her. She is (mostly) kind and gentle with her brother and sister. She says sweet things like, "I love you to the moon and back" and "Thank you for making this delicious dinner, mommy."
I have no problem admitting that I enjoy parenting her much more at this age than I did when she was younger. Some people are baby people.
I am not baby people.
Shocking, to those who regularly read here. I know.
Isabella has developed some new interests. After 4.5 years of having zero interest in her clothes, she now wants to pick them out every day. And every day, she wants to wear a skirt or a dress, which coming from a little girl who is not girly, I find this new passion disconcerting.
Having recently finished Cinderella Ate My Daughter, I am now more aware than ever about her developing self-image, and I've asked her why she wants to wear just skirts and dresses. Her reply, "Because I look pretty in them."
(Head hits desk.)
I have made it a point to tell her that she looks beautiful or pretty no matter what she wears. In her pjs. In jeans and a tshirt. Covered with paint from one of her many ongoing art projects. I do not want her to believe that beauty is only tied to what she wears or looks like.
And I'm wondering where her belief that it is even came from. She does not watch commercial tv. She hasn't had exposure to the Disney princesses. So, where?
She recently finished her 10-week "Clay Play" class at my city's art gallery, which she adored. This summer, she wants to take a drawing class there, and I plan on enrolling her. Her summer schedule will hopefully be a busy one again this year, as she'll take more mini camps at our science museum, swimming lessons, a two-week camp at her preschool, and possibly one more camp, which focuses on multiculturalism.
Speaking of the science museum, we visited an awesome new dinosaur exhibit there a few weeks ago. Gigantic, animatronic, roaring dinosaurs, and (Isabella's favorite), dinosaur babies hatching from eggs. She was in her glory.
Current Likes: Twin coercion, fashion, and building forts in the living room
Current Dislikes: Sleeping past 6:30am.