Wednesday, July 25, 2012

In Memoriam: Mulder the Orange Cat

Mulder in his favorite chair in our DeKalb apartment
Today is a very sad day for our family.  Our dear, sweet kitty Mulder died in his sleep last night.  We are all very saddened by this news, but are taking some comfort in the fact that he met his final day peacefully, and that for a cat he lived a good life.  He deserved that; he was a good cat.

Mulder and his brother Scully joined Ryan and I on August 16, 1999.  (Yes we did name them after Agents Mulder and Scully on the X-Files.  It was 1999 for goodness sake!)  I adopted them from the local shelter on the anniversary of our first date.  We were already living together, and I wanted a gift that would grow with our relationship.  Plus, Ryan had had an orange cat when he was a kid that he just loved, and I thought the choice of an orange cat was especially meaningful.

Mulder was Ryan's cat from the start.  I don't think he actually liked me all that much!  But we both loved him.  He was very well behaved, and quiet.  He preferred the company of his brother, but on occasion loved to have Ryan rub his belly.  And he would purr so loud!  Mulder had a little white "superman" patch on his chest that helped us identify the little orange fur balls in their first days with us.  The patch and the unusually dark pink shade of Mulder's nose made him, in my opinion at least, one of the handsomest cats I'd ever laid eyes on.

Mulder gave us quite the scare back in 2005, when he developed a huge tumor at the site of his vaccinations.  Deep down inside I wondered if the stress of going from the most spoiled cat on earth to just a cat after Nora's birth didn't have something to do with his illness.  Despite the change in our family dynamic, we weren't going to give up on him!  We opted for surgery, and was told he would have 6 to 12 months after that.  Well, he showed those doctors!  His lifespan was doubled from that day forward.  He never quite got his kitten spunk back, but he seemed content to nap on his blanket in the hamper.

I think the sadness that is weighing the most heavily on my heart is the fact that Mulder, Scully, and our cat Kallie-Roo are currently living with my parents, since no one will rent to people with three cats, a dog, and two kids (and now a rabbit too).  I knew deep down inside that moving would be tough on his already weakened system.  How I wish there had been another way, but to keep him in a home that was falling apart and full of mold was not good for any of us.  I also feel terrible that my mother was the one to find him, and that my Mom and Dad buried him.  This is such a sad burden for them, especially since they just lost their own cat Angel within the past year.  I am sorry to have caused them with more sadness.  But I'm grateful as well.  Since this was his time to leave this life, I'm thankful that he was surrounded by so much love instead of being locked up in some shelter cage.  That was a possibility that never came to be because of my parent's generosity and willingness to care for my orphans.  My mom spoiled him more than I possibly could have, and I'm happy for that.

Nora and Emily seem to be ok with the news.  Emily's initial response was we should get a fish to replace Mulder. A slow swimming fish, so she could use her cowboy rope and lasso it.  And then she told me I had boogers in my nose and to stop crying.  Nora is taking the news a little bit harder.  She hid her head under the pillow and said she didn't want to think about it.  I think she is very sad simply because she had hoped we would someday get the cats back, and this was never in her plans.  Even at the young age of 7 we can get so caught up in our plans of the future!  Life can be cruel though, those plans never quite pan out the way we think they will.

I certainly did not think I would be writing this post today.  But here I am.  Still sad, still full of boogers and tears.  Since that doesn't help though, I'd like to end with a few words from the Buddha.  Its a mantra you can say when someone dies.  We Buddhists don't distinguish between humans and animals, between pets and pests.  They are all living beings, and they all deserve our love, respect, and heartfelt prayers.  This is a little Sanskrit for you Mulder.  May you find all the causes for happiness in your next adventure.  May blessings and teachers be bountiful in your new world.  I sincerely hope that since you passed on the most auspicious day of Chokhor Duchen, the anniversary of Lord Buddha's first turning of the Wheel, that you have decided it was time to move on to greater things.

Tadya-ta, ga-te ga-te, para ga-te
para sang ga-te, bodhi so ha.


Saturday, June 16, 2012

First Grade at Spencer Pointe: Part 1

Here it is, the end of the school year, and I haven't posted about Nora's first grade experience. Now its over, and she's already looking ahead to second grade.  I thought it would be nice to look back on what was a fantastic year.

School started in August, and Nora was so excited to be a bus rider. I think she had always been a bit jealous that Emily got to the ride the bus back in DeKalb, so things were finally even. Every morning we waited at the end of the driveway until the bus came, and then she skipped/ran/flew onto the bus and sat in her assigned seat. Off she went! I have to admit after driving her to Montessori for three years and bringing her into the classroom, this hands-off approach was odd at best, downright impersonal at worst.  However, Nora was happy and that's all that mattered.

Nora was very blessed to have one of the most caring, funny, and loving teachers in the profession. Mrs. Anderson, or Mrs. A. as the kids called her, quickly became near and dear to Nora's heart. She made art featuring Mrs. A., talked about her incessantly, and complained that she should be able to go to school on the "S" days (ie Saturday and Sunday). Mrs. A. loved her back (but I think Mrs. A. loved all the kids, so there wasn't any favoritism or anything going on).

Here are some photos from the first half of the school year. I think Nora had a wonderful first-grade experience, complete with field trips, new friends, and lots and lots of birthday parties to attend. In a future post I'll have Nora share some of her experiences in her own words.

Spencer Pointe 2011

The entrance to the school

Room A-113 and Mrs. A. in pink and chartreuse!

Nora's desk...she was super secret agent number 7.

Mrs. A.'s desk

Smiling on the first day of school

Waiting with Dad for the bus
Bus coming down the road!

Yes, Nora is telling the bus driver where to go.

Beautiful tribute to Mrs. A.  The best part about this pic is that
 Nora really captured her likeness!

Nora's School Photo...she looks so grown up.

Nora was chosen as student of the week
in November.  She made a poster about
her interests and presented it to the class.
The poster...I love that she can go to Mom's work.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Emily's Fifth Birthday Party

Happy Birthday Sweet Emily!!!

After looking over Ryan's schedule for the month of June, we realized that there was one day and one day only we could have Emily's birthday party...June 2nd. That gave us ten days. Ten days is not a lot of time when you're already five months behind on laundry and cleaning, but somehow, we did it! And it was a lot of fun. In retrospect, everything worked out rather well despite the rain. But I'm jumping ahead.

First, I'm really glad we didn't want until closer to June 22nd for her party, since Emily has been walking up every morning for weeks now asking, "Is today my birthday?" or announcing, "Today IS my birthday...I want toys!". So it felt really good on the morning of the big day to say, "Yes honey, its here!!! Happy Birthday!!!" to which she replied, "Did you buy me toys?" Geez. Secondly, since it was so last minute, we couldn't do one of those fancy bouncy house places or anything like that. Quite honestly we didn't want to spend 400 dollars on a party anyways. Nora came up with the very good idea of having the party at the park, just like Ramona Quimby. Ryan and I thought that was a great idea. After all, the playground is new, there's a gazebo, and its just a short walk from our townhouse. The idea of a birthday parade was born. Just add a couple of quick trips to Target and Michael's, and you have yourself a bona fide celebration.

I was so happy that for once the weather was slated to be beautiful. My wedding got rained out, my vow ceremony got rained out, Emily's part last year got rained out...but the weather man promised blue skies and sunshine. We cleaned up the house regardless, and then Ryan ran out to do last minute errands while Emily and I held down the fort. She was sleepy, ended up napping on the couch, and no kidding she wet herself. She hasn't done that in over a year. All over her new dress. Should have served as a warning! Anyhow, I got her into an old outfit, which coincidentally was the same outfit Nora wore to Emily's first birthday party. First hurdle jumped.

Guests started arriving at two, and it was so nice to have Emily hosting her friends from school. This is the same girl, if you recall, who just a few short years ago was in play therapy to learn how to socialize. Her friends Joey, Shannon, and Ben from school joined us with their parents, as well as Sarah and Anna, and cousins Layla and Xander. The house was crowded, so I was happy that we were going outside after decorating our hats. The parade started and we marched to the park. The wind picked up and there were...rain drops??? Hmmmm. Odd. We continued on, Emily running and everyone else trying to keep up.

We got to the park and the kids played. I tried to get the picnic table all set up, but the sky burst open!!! No one could believe it. It started pouring. We grabbed our things and sheltered in the gazebo. I thought it was slightly funny, but I felt bad because I was supposed to be playing host and we were all cold and wet. The kids were not happy to be confined, so Ryan and Tim braved the rain, got the cars, and ferried everyone back to the house. I had NOTHING ready, nothing!!! It was supposed to be an outdoor party, so we totally winged it. Luckily we've done a few of these at this point, so we figured we'd have Emily open presents while the other adults got the food situated.

Needless to say, Emmy was THRILLED. She got a lot of wonderful presents from everyone...thank you so much! My Little Ponies, art supplies, Barbies, great gift certificates, a Lollalopsy named Charlotte, adorable clothes. The girl is set for summer vacay! (And she slept with the art supplies...too cute). We had a rainbow cone cake from the Creamery afterwards with yellow candles, and then the kids went upstairs and played until the party was over. The grown-ups got a chance to mingle as well, and all and all I would say it was a success. So again, thank you to everyone for sharing this day with Em!

PS I've decided to try Flickr instead of using Picassa for the photos. Let me know what you think!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Back to business

I haven't blogged since JANUARY. I just re-read the last post to see what was going on last time I stopped to re-evaluate our life. I mentioned I had started working and that things were getting a bit crazy. I had NO CLUE as to how crazy they would get!!!

The semester is now over and I survived being a working parent...barely. There are rumors that there are mothers out there that manage to work, cook, and clean. How they do that is beyond me. I feel like I'm just starting to wake up from an odd dream, and while it seems like a blur, the mess of this house reminds me that four months in which I stopped cleaning really did happen. I think I may enlist the aid of FEMA to help turn this man-made disaster back into a lovely home.

But enough about that! How are the girls you ask? They are doing great, of course. Nora and Emily are the sunshine of my life. Here's a bit of an update to get you all caught up.

Nora continues to do extraordinary at school. She is smarter than I am at this point in time, a fact that she uses to her advantage on an hourly basis. Her grades are off the charts, and her extraordinary teacher Ms. Nicki Anderson continues to offer Nora additional activities and assignments that are more geared to her cognitive skills. In reading and vocabulary, Nora scored in the upper 99% of the children in the state. Not too shabby! She is reading short chapter books on her own (Nancy Drew Clue Crew, the Rainbow Magic Fairies series, Magic Treehouse), and listening to all of the Ramona Quimby books on her iPod non-stop. I believe she's reading at about a third grade level. Her math and science skills also continue to develop. She does complex addition and subtraction problems, and does a lot of worksheets where math is used to solve puzzles. At school they recently hatched some chicks, so she's also an expert on the anatomy of an egg.

Nora has unfortunately decided that homework is NOT her thing, and I've been so busy with work, I haven't been keeping on top of this issue. She is bored with the spelling homework that gets sent home every week and has decided she no longer wants to do it. I haven't yet figured out a way to get her to do her homework without fighting, but I guess I have all summer to figure that one out.

Socially, Ms. Nora is as busy as a bee. She has gone to a number of birthday parties this year for some of her closest friends. She talks a lot about Elizabeth, Alyssa, and Katie, and I'm planning on having a summer slumber party so she doesn't loose contact with these girls who are so sweet. She misses seeing her friends at ACES, the before school daycare service, but she admits she'd rather sleep in. Me too!

Emily's language continues to make leaps and bounds, but she still has good days and bad days. Sometimes she speaks so very clearly that you would never ever know she had a disorder; other days she mumbles and speaks so quietly and I have no clue as to what she is trying to express. I would give almost anything to find out if there was something to make the fog that seems to envelop the language area of her brain dissipate. But the biggest and most important improvement happened about six weeks ago. Emily learned to tell us that "I don't know the word for that". YAY!!! She understands that there are things she wants or thinks, and that there are words that correspond with those ideas, and that the adults around her can help supply the language and facilitate communication. PROUD MOMMY right here folks!!!

Since I'm done with work, Emily is no longer at Apple School. In some ways that is sad, because the time spent in a regular classroom was good for her. Academically she kept up with and even exceeded some of the kids in her class. She recognizes all of the letters, can read her name, and is showing interest in learning how to add and read. She had a week where they learned about museums, and she told me she want to work at a "zee-um" (YES!!!!!!!). She had some issues though; there were some bossy little girls at Apple school that would tell her what to do, and in getting upset, she didn't always have the words to express how she felt. But she did tell the teachers, which is HUGE. She understands that we are here to help. I think this is the beginning of the end of Emily's communication issues.

Sweetie pie is finishing up her Pre-K program, and that too has been a big success. She has learned all the names of the kids in her class, and talks about her friend "my Shannon" all the time. She has almost learned to write her name, but continues to struggle with creating a diagonal line. She met almost all of the goals of this year's IEP. She likes school, although the transition from morning playtime to afternoon school continues to be difficult. I am very much looking forward to her all day kindergarten program next year.

There are a lot of other things to catch up on, but I will save those for upcoming blogs. I mean, check out the photo at the top! Yes that's my girls in the Pacific. Like I said, it was a REALLY busy semester! I hope to blog about it all in the summer, knowing full well the number of posts will fall back to few if none in the fall. But I'm a working momma now, and I have to accept that there are only so many hours in the day, and that its more important to spend time with the kids instead of writing about the kids. Until next time, love and light to you all!!!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Never Say Never...

My poor, poor neglected blog. So many things to write about, absolutely no time. Well, I'm taking the time tonight even though I know I have 10 million things to do on the to do list.

You may be thinking, "Why so busy?" After all, the moving is done, the short-sale is just about complete, and the kids are about to celebrate the 100th day of school. There's no more yard to work in, no seed catalogs to pour over, and the holidays are over. Why so busy? Low and behold, I was offered a real job. An honest-to-goodness art history teaching post at a college in the Chicago suburbs. Get this---my students call me "Professor". I'm still reeling in shock, since it was the one thing I always wanted and its the one thing I gave up.

So first a big thank you to my dear friend David who was kind enough to offer me the position. I guess it really is all about who you know! But at this point I do have 5 years experience, and there is no way a newbie could step in at such short notice and teach four new classes. I found out I was officially hired in the middle of December, and its been nose to the grindstone ever since.

I am overwhelmed--OVERWHELMED--by the new responsibilities on my plate. I now have over 100 students!!! And juggling kid schedules has become an Olympic sport. It's been a lot of change for all of us. Days of getting up with the sun instead of an alarm are a thing of the past. I'm up at 5am to put on business clothes (no more pj days). I wake the girls up at 6:20, breaking rule #1 of the house. Oh goodness they can be stinkers in the morning. Nora can't stand it; she moans that she needs more sleep, that she's too tired to move, that I've made a mistake and it isn't actually morning. Sometimes I get frustrated, because the good Lord knows we're always running late, but I laugh too because I am ever so aware that I'm standing in my mother's shoes, and I'm seeing a 7 year old Ivy.

Emily loves the early mornings, because she has been enrolled in daycare. She goes off to what she's dubbed "Apple School", so she joyfully bounds out of bed each day. She's dressed (and its not hard to pick out clothes for her since she recently outgrew her entire wardrobe), and ready to leave in a matter of minutes. Daycare makes life for a working mom a piece of cake. They feed her breakfast and a snack, and they even have a bus to drive her over to her Early Childhood program in the afternoon. She loves her teacher Miss Carrie, and she learns so much! They do science and math and art everyday. Its unbelievable. Its more like a private school than a daycare. She loves it, and I'm not sure, but I think she actually has a boyfriend. Not too bad considering its only week three!

Ryan is adjusting to our crazy new schedule as well. His once doting wife has been replaced by a zombie whose only function in the world is to make power point presentations. The house? Its a mess. The fridge? Its empty. The laundry? Its in two piles, dirty on the floor and clean in the basket. Poor guy can't win. He's been really sweet though, helping me make Excel sheets, keeping the printer running, making dinner out of thin air, etc.

I feel like I'm on a different planet. I never thought I'd be a working mom. Some days I'm so in love with teaching, other days, as I drag my butt home, I wonder what the hell I got myself into. I miss sleep, that is for sure! I miss cooking too. But my plan has always been to work more once Emily started kindergarten, and she starts in the fall. I really had no choice but to take this opportunity; otherwise I would have had to beg Starbucks for a job. And even though a master's in art history makes me the perfect candidate for 'Bucks, I do prefer teaching. It will be interesting to see how it all turns out. I'm hoping the extra work now pays off, so in the future I can simply work when I'm at work, and return to my regularly scheduled life as Mom in the evenings and on weekends.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Underwear Head Strikes Again!

Lately Emily has decided that there is nothing funnier in all the world than underwear. She just can't stop talking about it, laughing about it, running around in nothing but underwear. Ok, the last part isn't actually anything new; anyone that has spent a few days around our girls know they just don't like clothes all that much. But Emily has taken it to a new level.

Can I even say anything as funny as this? On Halloween she kept talking about underwear head, underwear head, and then she decided that underwear head was going to carve the pumpkin. She really gets into it too, shoving her face through the leg hole like that. Underwear head means business! Whenever she's in a silly mood, the talk turns to underwear. The other day she asked for a peanut butter and underwear sandwich. She calls me her underwear mommy. She wants to buy Nora underwear for Christmas. At the end of our grace before meals, she says "underwear hum" instead of "om ah hum". And she laughs and laughs and laughs.

I'm glad she's so jolly. It's nice to see that after all the changes and moves and what-not, she's found that inner joy once again. I just hope she doesn't tell her teacher that I gave her peanut butter and underwear for lunch.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Our New Home: The White House

Seven weeks after the fact I can happily report that our second move of 2011 was a success despite some pretty big odds. I didn't know how we would accomplish it, but luckily, since we hadn't finished unpacking from move number 1, it wasn't all that bad (notwithstanding my back injury. Note to self: No more dragging furniture up staircases alone! No more lifting file cabinets out of car trunks either, got it?)

The kids, Ryan, and I are nicely settled in a newly built townhouse located about 6 minutes away from my sister. Emily has dubbed it the "White House", and it has become a nice home. It is cozy in many aspects; the downstairs is like a great room, so the living room, kitchen, and dining room are all open. Its very modern, something I never thought I'd like, but who doesn't like shiny chrome and granite? While it seems small upon entering the house, there is a family room over the garage that now functions as the world's biggest toy room and the kids are thrilled! We are next to the train tracks, so six times a day Metra flies past to Emily's delight. There is an awesome playground at the end of our circle as well as a dog park for Lacey. Their Dad splurged and got the girls bunk beds, so with a few odds and ends from IKEA plus the stuff we bought from the landlord for next to nothing, we've managed to create a livable space that reflects who we are in less than two months.

For me, I think the nicest part about being here is that we will get to enjoy the holidays together as a little family. The one thing I cried about on several occasions in DeKalb was leaving behind our beautiful fireplace, and the memories of all the lovely Christmases we had had there. The smell of the fresh cut tree, the sound of the pine sap popping as the logs burned, the sight of the kids opening up their presents; it seemed impossible to enjoy the holidays anywhere else. It was the one thing that was so hard to give up, so watching Ryan lug the world's biggest Christmas tree through our new front door and decorating the tree with the girls was especially sweet. While moving in the winter isn't normally considered ideal here in Northern Illinois, for us, the timing couldn't have been better.

Here are some pics of our new place as several of you have requested. Click the box below to open up the album. Yep, this place is posh! Watch it morph from rooms filled with boxes to a home. But please don't think it looks this clean all of the time, believe me, it doesn't!!!