She was just shy of twenty. I have no idea what that means in people, or even dog, years. But according to the vet it was very old. Izzy spent the last five years of her life looking very much like a real-life version of Grizabella, the geriatric alley cat from Andrew Lloyd Weber's "Memory"-producing musical. She was matted and scroungy; I am not sure she ever weighed more than 4 or 5 pounds. We were just waiting for a sign that it was time. I felt blessed the vet could take her last Saturday morning. The sign, that she could no longer use her hind legs, came on with a vengeance on Friday night.
This wasn't the first time my kids have been through the loss of a pet. This coming January will mark the two-year anniversary of when we put another beloved cat, also 19, to sleep. And in many ways that one was much harder. We may have had three cats, one more than acceptable if you don't want to be considered "crazy cat people." But Emmy, a soft, sweet black and white shorthair, was the only one who paid the least little bit of attention to the children. The other two, an angry orange tabby we inherited from my father-in-law and Izzy, who was already starting to keep to herself in her twilight years, weren't particularly affectionate. Emmy was their lap cat. She was their pet in the very best sense of the word.
A few weeks prior, my husband noticed she had slowed down significantly, and then one Friday, this time in the morning, she was having a hard time standing. We let everyone stay home from school so that they could come to the noon vet appointment. I think I knew that it was a goodbye, but hadn't brought myself to be so sure when talking with the kids. We had discussed that the vet might tell us "it was time." But it was clear they were quietly praying that the cat doctor would have some miraculous cure that would allow for a "tenth life." They had hope--and I may have incorrectly encouraged it. At 11:45 a.m., we wrapped her in a blanket and climbed into the car for the five-minute ride. All three kids took turns holding her, no cat kennel, in the back seat. I told them she wanted to be cuddled. But the truth was I knew there was no way I could drive an empty carrier home.
The vet was kind, but direct. While it was possible Emmy's advanced kidney disease would allow her to live another couple of weeks, it was an equally compassionate choice to put her to sleep as part of this appointment. For me it was like pulling off a bandage. I just wanted to get it over with, to get to the other side. The idea of going to sleep each night worrying that my daughter would awaken the next morning to the cat lifeless in her bed sounded dreadful. The kids and my husband all said their goodbyes and left the room, where I stayed to hold Emmy as she gently drifted off.
The kids didn't go back to school that day and when we got home I asked them what I could do to help them feel just a little better. My oldest son didn't miss a beat. "The only thing that will make me feel better is to get another cat." And within two hours of one of the worst moments of their lives we were off to a different vet"this one with a sign out front advertising kittens for adoption. It was ridiculous, I knew, to even entertain the thought. We still had two cats at home and we certainly hadn't engaged in anything close to a respectable mourning period. But ice cream, my usual fallback for the hard times, wasn't going to cut it. And we welcomed Desi into our family that night.
It was different this time, though. The signs were so obvious and the kids didn't feel the need to hear the "Circle of Life" speech again. We all went quietly to the appointment knowing exactly what was going to happen. Everyone gently kissed her fur, and I again held her in her last moments.
This time we came home and reminisced about what an exciting life Izzy had led. We remembered how she had been purchased for the equivalent of 27 cents in a Mexican pet store. We remembered that she had traveled throughout North America spending quality time in Mexico City, DC, Boston and Chicago before becoming a Cheesehead kitty. We remembered how in her final weeks she'd taken to sleeping upstairs in the boys' room again, reclaiming the space annexed months earlier by the new kitten.
And we remembered that this time we probably didn't need another cat, especially that evening. But that isn't keeping my husband and daughter from talking about getting a dog. And I guess I'm open. Because that's what loving and losing a pet teaches you. That you can adore them with all your heart and that your heart can be broken. But you also learn that hearts open up again, especially for warm furry things that curl up on your lap.comments powered by Disqus
Lavish costumes, gorgeous sets, a full orchestra and a concession stand where nothing cost more than two bucks and you have a pitch perfect experience at the theater. Oh, and did I mention the ticket prices were just $10 dollars apiece? One could afford to take the whole family for a live theater experience for less than an evening at the Lego movie would cost including popcorn.
I think the first time in recent years that I've felt a real sense of shame, as both a parent and community member, was last Tuesday evening as I sat in a crowded elementary school LMC to listen to Ken Taylor, executive director of the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, and his colleague, Torry Wynn, present key findings from the 2013 Race to Equity report to our PTO group.
It's Wednesday morning at Allis Elementary School on Madison's east side, and 16 third-graders -- 10 boys and six girls -- enter into an open-space classroom in typical wiggly, giggly style. Some are making goofy faces at one another, some are bouncing around hand-in-hand with friends, and others are just trying to stay out of the whirling-dervish path of activity.
Of the 789 poorly-composed, way-too-dark and out-of-focus photos currently living on my iPhone, I can count on two hands the number that show my kids and me together. And my husband is in probably no more than three or four of those.
Something kind of magical has happened these past two weeks during the Sochi Olympics. There is no question, debate or disagreement on what will be watched on television once all homework is done. Everyone in the family makes time to sit down together to watch an hour of so of the primetime televised games.
Truth be told, though, this month I'm feeling a bit cinematically fried. In some ways, I already feel like I've spent the last week or so at a film festival. A festival specializing in minute-long glimpses of ordinary lives all ending with credits that feature the ubiquitous blue thumbs-up. Yes, it's been the February of the Facebook movie.
Just last week, on precisely the same day the Momastery post was getting over a million well-deserved views, Madison mom Suzanne Buchko was telling a similar story. Not on a blog but instead in the confines of the modestly circulated Franklin-Randall Elementary School weekly newsletter.
Late last month, the Madison Metropolitan School District adopted a five-year, $27.7 million technology plan calling for all district students, including those in the primary grades, to have significantly increased access to their very own tablet or notebook computer by 2019. Some parents, as well as education professionals, questioned whether elementary-aged kids, especially kindergarteners who aren't even able to read or write yet, will gain much benefit from introducing yet another screen into their lives.
This past Monday, had winter's unrelenting weather allowed, Middleton Cross Plains School District teacher Andrew Harris would have once again been at the helm of a classroom. After nearly four years of fighting his dismissal from Glacier Creek Middle School for viewing and passing on sexually explicit material on district computers, MCPSD has been legally forced to reinstate Herris, this time as a seventh-grade science teacher at Kromrey Middle School.
In a study published last week by the National Bureau of Economic Research, academics have found that the 16 and Pregnant series may have played a significant role in the recent decrease in U.S. teen pregnancies.
In our house, sad but true, we've rarely spent the Martin Luther King holiday discussing race, social justice or the power of non-violent civil disobedience. Instead, the third Monday in January has historically been treated as just another day off school, just another long weekend. And it's been a missed opportunity.
It's not something that happens very often, but last Friday, as news of the impending arctic cold snap reached our house, my kids were rooting for Governor Scott Walker. They were rooting for him to take Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton's lead and cancel school throughout the state. They couldn't care less if he had the authority to do such a thing -- if he called off school, he'd be their hero.
Late last semester, as students were packing up their backpacks one final time before winter break, Middleton High School principal Denise Herrmann and assistant principal Lisa Jondle were co-authoring a note home to parents informing them of a widespread cheating scandal involving nearly 250 calculus students at the school.
Breathe in, breathe out. Have you ever been in the heat of a parenting moment with these words ringing through your head? Then you're on the right path toward mindful parenting.
The week between Christmas and New Year's is famous for all sorts of things. Malls are packed with folks exchanging those holiday sweaters that don't fit just right. It's the week those same folks pledge to never again eat another frosted sugar cookie or candy cane (hence the sweater issues). It's also the week the media saturates the public with dozens of "Best of Year" lists.
This will not (although it could) be a treatise on the value of "alone time" for a healthy marriage, though. Nor will it be an ode to how nice it was for me to have a few days off from lunch-packing, carpool-driving and homework-nagging.
For those of you who haven't yet seen it, the eight-week-long transit campaign, placed both inside and on the outside of buses, features a photo of an orange tabby with a stainless steel bar drilled into its head accompanied by the line "I am not lab equipment. End UW cat experiments!" Just as PETA hopes, the image is shocking and demands an immediate response.
If I had my druthers, I'd sit out the entire shopping week that follows Thanksgiving. Black Friday, for starters, has corrupted the fine art of bargain shopping and turned it into a gladiator sport. There is no percentage off that is worth losing sleep, or even worse an eye, over. Especially if you have kids in tow.
When you shop for toys, there is always the conflict between what you think is appropriate/adorable and what the child being shopped for might actually want/play with.
Many of the pop-culture seasonal touchpoints of my youth are completely lost on my kids. You see, while I may have memorized every word to both the Snow Miser and the Heat Miser's songs from The Year Without a Santa Claus, I'm pretty sure the only Rankin-Bass stop-motion Christmas special my kids have ever seen has been Rudolph.