Catie was in first grade when the shooting at Sandy Hook happened. It gutted me at the time, all those babies who were lost, the same age that my little girl was. A friend’s nephew was one of the children killed; his twin sister was in another first grade classroom and survived. I can’t imagine what those families have endured.
This most recent shooting in Florida has been devastating in its own way, especially seeing cell phone videos and the screenshots of texts the kids sent to their parents and siblings because they thought they’d never see them again. I can’t imagine getting a text like that from one of my kids. It makes me sick to think about it.
Last night, Chris and I were watching the news, and saw one of the Newtown children’s moms being interviewed on TV.
I said, “Her son should be Catie’s age.”
Chris said, “Yeah, her son was the same age Lucy is now.”
Since Lucy was just a baby when Sandy Hook happened, I never thought of it that way. It just hit me hard, this awful feeling that none of our babies are ever safe in this world.
This morning, I asked the girls when was the last time they had a lockdown drill at school. Neither of them could remember, it’s such a common occurrence. They used to trigger Catie’s anxiety; the night after every lockdown drill, she would panic and cry, and I would have to lie in bed with her and rub her back until she could settle down enough to fall asleep. Now she doesn’t even really register it.
Since Lucy is only 6, I wasn’t sure how the school explained the whole lockdown drill process to them. I asked her if she knew why they did them.
She said, “It’s in case a bad guy comes in with a gun and tries to shoot us.”
And that, folks, is the story of how I ended up hugging both of my daughters and sobbing my eyes out at 7:30 this morning. (Until Lucy told me that I was hugging her too tight and she couldn’t breathe.)
I don’t know what else to say about this. I just hate that this is the world my kids have to grow up in. I’m watching these teenagers protesting, and I’m scared to feel anything like optimism, but I really and truly hope these kids can fix this mess, where all of the adults have failed them.
The end of 2016 was so depressing and bleak that I didn’t bother to do one of these recap posts, but so much has happened lately that I haven’t blogged about, that I feel like I should pick it back up.
1. What did you do in 2017 that you’d never done before?
* Chris and I got married!
* Related to the previous point: I officially became a stepmom!
Honestly, this little blended family we’ve created is just about the greatest thing ever. We are so damn lucky.
2. Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
No and no. I tend to think resolutions are just something you give up by sometime in mid-January. Changes don’t always happen on a set calendar timeline.
3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Several friends had babies this year, and my cousin & his wife had a baby girl.
4. Did anyone close to you die?
It feels weird to mention a cat here, but Beaumont dying back in February really knocked all of us for a loop. I’m pretty sure I cried more for that cat than I cried over my own divorce.
5. What countries did you visit?
Jeez, this question is always so depressing. I don’t think I even left North Carolina in 2017.
6. What would you like to have in 2018 that you lacked in 2017?
A home of our own. I moved into this house with Catie and Lucy in 2011, after Dave and I split up, and it’s been a great landing place for us for the past 6+ years. But it’s a rental house, so we can’t change things like the ugly wallpaper, pastel blue siding, etc. I want to buy a house that we can really make ours. One where the kids have their own bedrooms, a fenced backyard for Roxie, and where I have a home office with a door I can close (I currently work in the dining room, and it’s really hard to work when the kids are home because I have no sound barrier anywhere).
7. What dates from 2017 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
* January 21st – Participating in the Women’s March the day after Trump was inaugurated.
* February 15th – The day we brought home our new kittens, Fifi & Sunny.
* November 22nd – The day Chris & I got married.
8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
I’ve been kicking ass at my job, and I’m really proud of a lot of my work there.
9. What was your biggest failure?
I’ve been more short-tempered than usual, and that’s been weird, because it makes me feel unlike myself. I know a lot of it has been related to my health (see below), but it kind of sucks when I have to keep apologizing for being irritable and cranky.
10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
I hurt my knee, which kept me from being able to run for a while. That was not fun. I’ve also been having a problem with recurring headaches, but my doctor referred me to a neurologist, and I’m cautiously optimistic that it might be getting better.
11. What was the best thing you bought?
I don’t know if you can say that I “bought” it, but we paid for a marriage license. That was pretty great.
12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
Until the day I die, I don’t think I will ever stop being angry that Donald freaking Trump somehow became president of this country. “Appalled and depressed” is an understatement.
14. Where did most of your money go?
Rent, groceries, kids. The usual.
15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
It feels weird to keep mentioning my own wedding, but: that. Also my kids’ birthday parties. Adopting 2 tiny kittens. The new Star Wars movie. The new season of Game of Thrones. Lots of stuff, I guess.
16. What song will always remind you of 2017?
I’m going to say “Perfect” by Ed Sheeran – not because it’s a great love song (although it is). The real reason is because listening to my daughters sing it is one of the sweetest, loveliest things I’ve ever heard, and gets filed under that category of “man, I hope I still remember this when I’m old and senile.”
17. Compared to this time last year, are you: a) happier or sadder? I don’t know that I have an either/or answer for this. Can I say angrier? Because I am. I’m so angry at the shitshow my country has become. All of the feminist ideals that my parents raised me with have just bubbled over into this endless internal rage-fire that I’m not sure exactly what to do with. b) thinner or fatter? Thinner by maybe 5 pounds, but not much. (Not complaining.) c) richer or poorer? Well, I got a raise, and my company’s stock price is doing so well that I’m about to use some of my stock options to buy a house. So definitely richer.
18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Being productive around the house. I did the “40 Bags in 40 Days” challenge during Lent, and I’ll likely do it again this year, because we really need to declutter if we’re going to move sometime this year.
19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Same answer as the past years, worrying about things that I have no control over.
20. How did you spend Christmas?
The usual. Christmas Eve church service with my family. My kids were with me for Christmas morning, then went to their dad’s to do Christmas with him. I took a nap and went for a long run with Roxie. My sister and brother-in-law flew in for a few days. We’ve had all 4 kids here since December 26th, which has been great, and I’m already sad that it’s going to end on Wednesday.
21. Did you fall in love in 2017?
Nah, the same guy. He’s still pretty aces.
22. What was your favorite TV program?
Game of Thrones.
23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
Do political figures count?
24. What was the best book you read?
I’m going to plug a children’s book that a friend wrote: Bernadette the Brave by the amazing, lovely Allison Zapata. You should buy it for your kids. It’s really, really good. I’m not just saying that.
25. What was your greatest musical discovery?
He’s not new, but my kids got me into Ed Sheeran this year. It’s been a long time since I’ve had an album that I play on repeat. But pretty much everything on his last 2 albums has been my jam lately. (And yes, I’m probably too old to be an Ed Sheeran fan. Whatever.)
26. What did you want and get by year’s end?
I feel like Chris and I have been a good team for years, and I feel like our kids have been a blended family for a very long time, but having everything legal makes it all feel a little more solid.
27. What did you want and not get by year’s end?
A house. I wanted to buy a house last year, but it didn’t work out for a bunch of reasons. Chris & I decided to put off house-hunting until after Christmas, so we’re about to start searching again.
28. What was your favorite film of this year?
I want to say “The Last Jedi,” but I also really loved “Wonder Woman,” and I have to admit that “Thor: Ragnorak” was great fun.
29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 41. I don’t think I did anything particularly special? I think I just had dinner with my parents and my kids. The usual.
30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2017?
Athleisure. I own more yoga pants than any reasonable person needs. But I mean, I work from home, so it’s not like I have to dress up on a daily basis to impress anyone.
32. What kept you sane?
* Having a partner who listens to me when I need to vent.
* A lot of various prescription medications. God bless medical science.
33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Chris Hemsworth as Thor, after his haircut. If you don’t get it, do a Google image search for pictures of Chris Hemsworth carrying his babies. You’re welcome.
34. What political issue stirred you the most?
There is no way I can answer this succinctly. I’ll just gesture broadly at the world in general and say: all that stuff.
35. Who did you miss?
There are a few friends who live far away who I really wish I could’ve seen this year.
36. Who was the best new person you met?
This feels unfair to try to single someone out. There are too many people I like.
37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2017.
ELECTIONS HAVE CONSEQUENCES. (*hyperventilates with rage*)
38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
Not a song lyric, just a quote that I think sums up my year pretty well:
“Marriage is the triumph of imagination over intelligence.
Second marriage is the triumph of hope over experience.”
And since I always finish these posts with a song, here’s an acoustic version of “Take on Me” by A-Ha, which I’ve listened to probably over 20 times, and I could easily listen to it 20 more.
Lucy has this habit of saying hilarious things out of the blue that just catch us completely off guard. Sometimes she’s intentionally being funny, sometimes it’s accidental. But I always mean to write them down, because I’m afraid I may forget them someday.
The movie “Sing” has taught her Sir Mix-a-Lot, because from the next room, I heard, “I loooove CATS and I cannot lie!”
When I dry my hair, the kids think it’s funny to have me shoot hot air in their faces.
Which is all fine until Lucy runs in out of nowhere and screams, “BLOW ME!”
And I cracked up because apparently my sense of humor is on par with a 12 year-old boy’s.
Back in February: “At school we learned about a guy who was shot & killed! His name was King Junior!”
Took me a second to realize she meant MLK, who they were studying for Black History Month.
Lucy: *attempts some ridiculous thing that’s too absurd to even try to explain*
Me: “Lucy, I don’t think you can do that.”
Her: “Maybe I can, you don’t know my life.”
3 stories about kids & technology:
1. “Mom, did you know you can make the screen bigger by pressing F11?” (Answer: yes, I did. But you’re only 5, so how did YOU know that?)
2. The kids were playing with Siri on their iPads, goofing around. Lucy said their dad’s name, so Siri (of course) pulled up his contact info & avatar. This completely blew Lucy’s mind. “CATIE! LOOK!! SIRI KNOWS DAD!!”
3. We installed Google Hangouts on their iPads so they can text me and their dad. This means I get a lot of this from Lucy.
Not gonna lie, I don’t hate it.
I was feeling stressed out about a small work thing, and I had a headache. Chris told Lucy, “Go rub Mommy’s shoulders to help her feel better.”
Lucy replied: “You do it, I’m not your slave.”
Reading a book at bedtime with Lucy & it had a scratch & sniff thing on one page.
Lucy’s assessment: “It just smells like book.”
I can’t explain why I couldn’t stop laughing for the next 5 minutes about that one, but it got me. From now on, every time I walk into a book store or library, I’m going to say, “It smells like book in here.”
And lest it seem like Catie isn’t funny, she absolutely is. It just happens that 10 year-olds are less accidentally hilarious than 5 year-olds.
So, here a few of my favorite Catie moments.
I’ve been thinking about buying a house (temporarily on hold, but it’s sort of in the back of my mind as a “someday” thing). A house went up for sale in our neighborhood, so we detoured past it one morning on our drive to school. Catie said the house looked way too small for us.
It was a Cape Code style house, so I explained that it was much bigger on the inside than it looked. Catie sighed, rolled her eyes, and said, “Mom. It’s a house, not a TARDIS.”
One of the “completely accidental” jokes: we were in the car and Catie was telling me about some book she had just read.
“Mom, you know those ass-fed hounds?”
I’m sorry, the what??? Turns out she meant AFGHAN hounds. I had a hard time recovering from that one & playing it cool.
We were in the car, listening to “When I Was Your Man” by Bruno Mars on the radio, when he’s lamenting about all the things he should’ve done for his girl when he had the chance. Catie pointed at the radio and said, “Yeah, Bruno Mars! You SHOULD have done all that nice stuff for her! What did you think would happen? CONSEQUENCES, THAT’S WHAT!”
So yeah, kids are a riot. I highly recommend them.
Here’s a story that I should probably be embarrassed to share, but since it has a happy ending, eh, here goes.
Five years ago, I was separated and in the process of getting a divorce. Thanks to North Carolina’s mandatory “one year waiting period” before a divorce can be granted, that state of limbo seems to be longer and more torturous here than in other states. I had dipped my toe in the online dating world, but had only been on a few dates at that point.
This was before Catie started kindergarten, so both of the girls were in daycare full-time. There was a little girl in Catie’s pre-K class whose parents were divorced, and her mom, Tanya, and I became fast friends. Tanya sort of took me under her wing to help me through the process. We lost touch after our kids started school, since we live in different districts. But I think about her often, and I’m eternally grateful to her for some of the advice she gave me in the months after my separation.
In 2012, on St. Patrick’s Day, Tanya convinced me to join her and some of her friends to go out for dinner. My mom baby-sat the girls that night so I could go out with them. There were cocktails with dinner, then afterward, we ended up at a bar and had more drinks. (I guess it wasn’t really a bar – it’s normally a restaurant, but on Saturday nights, they have live music and it turns into sort of a dance club? It’s an odd place.) I’m a total lightweight with alcohol, I drink maybe 3 or 4 times a year on average, so it doesn’t take much to knock me for a loop. I don’t know how many drinks I had that night, but suffice to say, it was way past my tolerance level.
So, it’s St. Patrick’s Day, and I’m drunk in a bar. You know, as you do. I decided it would be a good idea to text a guy who I had a lunch date with earlier that week. It started off as just a, “hey, I really enjoyed meeting you, we should hang out again sometime,” friendly chat, and then turned into me confessing that I thought he was really hot and a whole bunch of other things that I would never have had the nerve to say if I had been sober.
I ended up taking a cab home, and my parents had to drive me back the next day to retrieve my car. Which was kind of embarrassing for a grown 36 year-old mother of two children, but better than the alternative of driving under the influence.
The guy I had been drunk texting? He texted me in the morning to ask if I was feeling OK.
Five years later, that turns out to have been the best drunk text I ever sent.
Chris is the guy who takes care of me, deals with all of my crazy hang-ups and anxieties, loves my kids, does the dishes and takes out the trash without me even having to ask, helps with the pets, and does a million other things that I try my hardest to never take for granted.
Chris is such a good guy that even my dad likes him, and my dad is a hard guy to win over. In fact, my dad likes him so much that he has never once told me that he disapproves of us living together even though we’re not married. (One exception: he did once say that he didn’t want me to talk about us living together on Facebook, because he doesn’t want some of his conservative Christian family members to know that I’m “a fallen woman.” Which didn’t offend me, it made me laugh, because it’s such a hilariously antiquated expression. And my dad is nearly 81, so I get that he has some outdated worldviews that I don’t share.) Meanwhile, my mom loves Chris so much that she automatically assumes any disagreements we have are my fault. So, yeah. Both of my parents are big fans. My kids adore him too. Hell, even Dave likes him.
Happy five years, babe. There’s nobody I’d rather be shacked up and living in sin with.
P.S. Neither of us can remember the date when we met for that first lunch, other than it was a few days before St. Patrick’s Day. But 3/17 was the night of the drunk texts, so that’s what we jokingly refer to as our anniversary.
We had Beaumont put to sleep a few days after my last post, and it was pretty much as heartbreaking and terrible as I expected it to be. Catie insisted she wanted to be here when the vet came to put him down, and Dave came over too, since Beaumont had been his cat. Catie held it together until the vet and her assistant walked out the door, then she just burst into tears and wailed. I cried, Dave cried, Chris cried. It was awful.
Later, Catie went with Dave to his apartment, and Chris and I buried Beaumont in my parents’ backyard. Well, Chris buried him. Sometimes it’s handy to be in a relationship with someone who grew up on a farm and has a lot of experience digging graves for small animals. I mostly just stood around and cried a lot.
I told Catie that we had given Beaumont the best life a cat could have, and somewhere out there was another kitty who needed a good home, and we were going to find that cat, and give them their best life, just like we did for Beaumont. I started researching shelters and filling out applications within a couple of days, because I knew were going to need a new cat ASAP. That weekend, we hit up some adoption events that local rescues were having. Turns out, February isn’t exactly “kitten season,” so we were finding a lot of older cats, but not many kittens. If it was just me, I would’ve been fine adopting an older cat, but Catie and Lucy have never had the experience of having a kitten. By the time Catie was born, Beaumont was already 4 years old, and Teenie was nearly 11. I wanted them to experience falling in love with a cat when it’s a baby, and watching it grow up.
One rescue group we found had kittens, but their policy is that if you want to adopt a kitten younger than 6 months old, you have to adopt two of them. The thinking is that it’s supposed to help with the cats’ social development, but I wonder if it’s just because there are so many cats out there who need homes, that they made a rule that you have to take two of them. Either way, we had all four kids with us, and they just fell in love with these kittens. For that matter, so did I.
At one point, I looked at Chris, and said, “We… could maybe get two kittens, right?” He just shook his head and laughed. I think he knew that between my kids, his kids, and me, he didn’t stand a chance. He didn’t even try to argue.
So, this is how we got our new babies: Sunny and Serafina.
Since they’re both girls, I wanted to name them Leia and Rey, but the kids overruled me. Sunny is named after the baby in Lemony Snicket’s “A Series of Unfortunate Events.” Serafina is from the book, “Serafina and the Black Cloak,” about a girl who can morph into a mountain lion. Serafina is a little ridiculous as a cat name, so we just call her Fifi.
But man, they are so cute.
Fifi has medium-length hair (possibly long hair, hard to tell when she’s a baby), and she’s solid gray except for a little tuft of white on her chest.
Sunny is a dilute tortie, and has the cutest markings with her little nose freckle and white paws. They’re from the same litter, even though they don’t look alike much at all.
And oh, we are so in love with them.
(Let the record show that even though Chris acted like he was against the idea of getting two kittens, you can often find one or both kittens in his lap while he’s working. He’s a big softie.)
They’re adjusting really well to Roxie too. She loves cats, and seemed so sad and confused after Beaumont was gone, I think she’s just excited to have new playmates around. The kittens weren’t quite sure about her at first because they’d never met a dog, and even though she’s a tiny 8-pound Yorkie, she’s still quite a bit bigger than them right now – although probably not for long. They’re getting used to each other and play together a lot now, which is hilarious to watch.
I guess Beaumont left such a big hole in our hearts that we needed two kitties to fill it up. But I’m glad we found these two girls, because they’re pretty wonderful.
Beaumont has never really been my cat. He was Dave’s cat, then he became Catie’s cat. From the day she was born (even before then, really), she has been his person.
When Catie was a baby, we lived on two acres out in the middle of nowhere. We were the only people in our area who didn’t have horses or other livestock, just cats. I worked from home part-time, and it was really isolating, so to keep from going crazy, I would take Catie for walks every day. It started in the Baby Bjorn, then the backpack carrier, and eventually she was walking on her own. But everywhere we went on our walks, Beaumont would follow us.
More than once, we had neighbors stop us to tell us that they’d never seen anyone walking their cat before. He wasn’t on a leash or anything, he just followed us – or I should say, he followed Catie – everywhere.
I’ve had the opportunity to get rid of Beaumont twice, and both times, I didn’t do it because of Catie. The first time was when we moved from Washington to North Carolina. Since we had been living in such a rural area, the cats were used to being both indoors and outdoors. But in NC, we were going to be moving to the suburbs, and we wouldn’t be able to let them roam, and it felt like it would be a hard adjustment for them. We found new homes for two of the cats, Cleo and Greta, but with Beaumont, I just thought that he loved Catie so much, maybe he could adjust to being an indoor cat. And I was right, he did.
The second time was when Dave and I separated. Since he had been Dave’s cat, Dave offered to take Beaumont when he moved out. And I was tempted, because I was already overwhelmed with a 4 year-old and a newborn. But again, I thought about Catie. She went through so much so fast: she got a baby sister, her dad moved out, and we moved to a new house, all in the span of less than 6 months. Taking her cat away felt like an extra layer of trauma, and I just couldn’t do that to her. And I’m so glad I didn’t, because as it turned out, our other cat, Teenie, passed away just a few months later. I can’t imagine how much worse that would’ve been if she didn’t have Beaumont.
Beaumont loved Lucy too, of course. I don’t think I’ve ever met a cat that’s more tolerant of being manhandled by little kids.
And Lucy really does love him, but she’s never been as much of an animal person as Catie. The bond he has with Catie is really something special and rare.
Beaumont adapted really well to both Spyro Jones and Roxie, too. Like, a million times better than I could have expected. He really has been just the best at adjusting to all manner of upheaval in his little world.
On the nights when the kids are here, he follows us upstairs at bedtime, he gets in Catie’s bed while she’s brushing her teeth, and waits for her. He sleeps with her for a few hours, until she starts rolling around (which she always does, that girl sleeps like a tornado), then he’ll get up and come get in bed between Chris and me.
Last summer, Beaumont lost a lot of weight really suddenly, and we learned there’s a mass in his anal gland. (I didn’t even know cats had anal glands, I thought that was dog thing – the vet said that in her 15 years of practice, she’s only had maybe 5 cats that have ever had an issue with their anal glands at all.) The surgery to remove the anal gland was $2800. I couldn’t justify spending that much money on a cat who was already 13 years old, and put him through all that pain and suffering, and for what? How much more time would it really buy him at his age? We decided to just let it go, and let nature take its course. And since then, aside from a few butt-related issues, he was his normal, happy self.
This past week, his health took a turn really suddenly. He’s mostly stopped eating and drinking. He’s obviously in pain and suffering. He only purrs when Catie is the one who pets him, nobody else. (She really is his person.)
I know this is the end. I realized on Friday that I needed to have him put to sleep, but it was Catie’s birthday, and I just couldn’t do that to her – I don’t want her to associate her birthday with Beaumont dying for the rest of her life. Which feels horribly selfish of me, to keep him alive because the date was inconvenient, but I don’t know what else to do.
The vet gave us pain medication, and we’re trying to keep him comfortable for a few days. But we’re going to have to have him put to sleep sometime soon. They’ll make housecalls for euthanizing, which I think I’ll do. He can be peaceful in his own home, surrounded by his people, not scared in a vet’s office.
Thank you for being such a good kitty to my babies, Beaumont. You are such a good boy, we are going to miss you so much.