Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A Box Full Of Pure Cuteness

We have a new addition to our house. Actually, six of them.

Last winter a cat started living on our front porch. We felt sorry for her since the winter was a harsh one and the porch provides very little protection from the elements. So naturally, I made her an insulated kitty house out of one of our kitty carriers and an old blanket and started feeding her.

We tried to find her owner but discovered from a neighbor that she showed up last fall in his yard with two other male cats--a gray one that looked just like her and and an orange tabby. The gray male was sadly killed in the road a couple of months ago. The neighbor kept the orange tabby, which is now living in his garage.

As spring approached, we realized that the female kitty was soon to be a momma kitty. Not wanting her to have her babies in the still below-freezing outdoors, we moved her into the utility room of our basement, much to my husband's chagrin and the disdain of our other cats. But cats don't count in the voting, and my husband is outnumbered by the kids and me. Democracy rules.

One morning about a month ago, I peeked in on the kitty--whom we dubbed "Stormy" since her fur is the color of storm clouds--to find her lying in her box as usual. Only this time, she was surrounded by five tiny balls of fur--one black, one black and orange, one grey and two orange tabbies.

It took awhile, but we finally figured out we had two females and three males. Of course, Shannon and Sean could not resist naming them. The gray female is Mystery. The black and orange female is Destiny. The black male is Midnight. The playful orange tabby is Zeke (the only one Sean got to name), and they shy orange tabby is Shylo.

As cute as they all are, nine cats in one household is a little extreme. We don't want neighbors gossiping about the "cat people" down the road. I am always appalled at the reports of the humane society raiding the homes of people with fifty wild cats running around. So, when the kittens are weaned, momma and babies will all be going to a local no-kill shelter as soon as they have the space.

It will certainly be difficult to see them go. Your mood cannot help but improve when you watch five balls of fuzz wrestling with each other and chasing around a small toy. And there is something sentimental and serene about watching a mother nurse her babies. I think it brings back memories of nursing my own.

But these cats will be at the shelter until they find homes, and the people who run the Adopt-a-Pet facility are meticulous about the homes to which they go. I have no doubt they will all have wonderful, pampered lives.

Besides, it has been good for my kids to see newborn kittens grow and take on the responsibility of caring for them. It has even inspired Shannon to volunteer. She will be working at Adopt-a-Pet this summer helping to care for the animals. It will be a good learning experience since she is considering studying veterinary science in college.

Still, I will miss the five little fuzzballs and their momma. It won't be the same when I can't take a sanity break by opening a door and letting a bunch of kittens vie for my attention.

In fact, I think I will go step in there right now. I am feeling the need for a dose of cuteness.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Boys Will Be Boys--Much To Their Mother's Chagrin

I am less one child this week as my son left this morning on his fifth grade trip to Mackinac Island near the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I see this as a mixed blessing.

On one hand, I think the break will be good for both of us as he has been testing my patience lately. I decided during the last marking period to give him a little leeway instead of hovering over his schoolwork and constantly checking his grades. He will be going into middle school in the fall, and since no teachers will be accepting late assignments or allowing him to make up a low grade on a paper, I felt he needed a taste of the real world to come.

This resulted in a D in math. Apparently he did not bother to turn in two assignments, which dropped his grade significantly. This not only resulted in him missing the honor roll for the first time in 18 months, but he also lost his XBox 360 and has the threat of summer school hanging over his head if the grade is not brought up in this last marking period.

On top of the grade fiasco, he has basically been dismantling the house piece by piece in the last two weeks. He broke a glass while haphazardly loading the dishwasher. He broke a door on one of the kitchen cabinets roughhousing with his dad. He broke the leg on our game table. He yanked a towel bar off the back of the bathroom door. Of course, all of this has been "by accident." Also, someone broke the portable heater in my office. No one will admit to doing it, but I think I can name the culprit in one guess.

In my currently unemployed state, these damages are more than just a nuisance. But at least he was putting dishes in the dishwasher and actually hanging up towels! That is generally more than I can get his father to do.

But he is, after all, my baby. And his absence leaves a little bit of emptiness in the house. It is a lot quieter without all that boy energy in the air.

I also worry about how he is doing. Not that I am all that concerned about safety. He is being chaperoned by a very trustworthy father of one of his classmates. I worry more that I am not there to remind him of the little things I monitor each day, such as brushing teeth, combing hair and putting on deodorant. Hopefully, this father is not in charge of three 11-year-old boys who neglect to apply deodorant every day.

Fortunately, this absence will be a short one. He will be back on Thursday evening full of tales of the experiences he just had. And life will return to its normal state of organized chaos.

So I just have to remind myself when the quiet gets too overbearing that this situation is temporary. The silence will soon be replaced by the sounds of a loud pre-teen voice, running feet, and my daughter complaining about how annoying her brother can be. Not to mention the sound of glass breaking as footballs are lobbed throughout the house "by accident."

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Help Wanted--Find Me A Decent Job!

In the world of the unemployed, job hunting is a daily necessity. Quite frankly, I am finding it downright humiliating.

With so many people competing for so few jobs, I find myself looking at employment opportunities I probably never would have thought of pursuing in the past. I just finished writing a cover letter trying to convince some vet why I might be a good receptionist/kennel assistant.

The receptionist part does not worry me, but the "kennel assistant" is a little questionable. That could cover anything from feeding dogs who are recovering from surgeries to wrestling rabid beasts who would like nothing more than to tear off a limb.

That is the problem I am finding with many of these job descriptions. They are simply too vague. Here are some examples of want ads I have found:

Appointment Setters -I assume this means calling people at dinner time and pestering them to buy anything from a water filter to a time share in a Louisiana swamp.

Motivational Instructors - this one screams "Set up a pyramid scheme by peddling our products and annoy your friends and family into joining you!"

Help Wanted in Our Pollution Control Department - You are a glorified janitor. Is there somehing wrong with just saying "janitor?"

100 Workers Needed to Assemble Crafts! $480 Per Week! - What they don't tell you is they refuse to pay you because the string on the puppet you assembled is .002 mm too short.

Yes, it is definitely slim pickings out there. Although there do seem a lot of jobs for truck drivers. Could you see short little me driving a big rig? I almost have to stand up in my seat in order to see behind me when I back up the minivan.

But I refuse to get discouraged. I will just continue to plug away, scanning the internet and the newspaper ads. Somewhere, there has to be a good fit.

Think I could pass for an experienced rock and roll promoter?

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Have You Disinfected Today?

It is bad enough that we are dealing with record home forclosures, job loss rates that are the highest in decades, and people have lost their shirts because of questionable banking practices. Now it seems that a flu pandemic is lurking on the horizon.

I can't remember--is plague and pestilence the First Horseman of the Apocalypse, or the Second?

My 11-year-old son is a worrier, and it has taken some convincing to persuade him that we are not going to drop dead from swine flu at any time. In fact, when I was acting a little down last week in the wake of my job loss, Sean was absolutely convinced that I had it.

Not that it is to be taken lightly. This is a strain of the same flu that killed millions worldwide in 1918. My own great grandfather was a casualty of that epidemic, leaving my great grandmother a widow with four children and one on the way.

Modern medicine, however, has come a long way since then. We also have to remember that medical care in the United States is more sophisticated and more widely available than in Mexico, where the flu originated and most of the deaths have taken place.

So we will proceed with caution. I am encouraging everyone in my family to wash their hands and use hand sanitizer so often that all the germs in our house are starting to wave little white flags. Hopefully it won't get to the point where we will have to walk around in surgical masks and be unable to shake hands with the people next to us during mass, but we will cross that bridge if we come to it.

But if I see a guy in long flowing robes galloping down my road on a white horse, I'm not sticking around to see where he's heading.