Nicknames

Yesterday, my daughter skidded her scooter to a stop next to me and said, “Mama, I gave myself a nickname.” I, of course because that is the best, said, “Oh? What is it?”

“I call myself RR the Explorer!” she announced. If she could have leaned on some reverb, I assure you she would have.

I melted then. I want this small person to be curious and a discoverer and investigate, but all too often it seems that she takes the status quo and settles comfortably into it.

There’s a dinosaur in the dining room, you say? Please give it some breakfast, too.
Hmmm. For some reason my room is blue instead of yellow. Well, that’ll do. Or even,
I’m really unhappy with the choices you gave me but since those are the choices, oh well.

When she was small she used to yell at us  THOSE ARE NOT MY CHOICES! but apparently we’ve either learned to offer the correct choices or she’s becoming complacent. In fact, at mealtimes when offered any sort of choice, she usually says “surprise me!” It’s sometimes exasperating to constantly watch her opt out of making a decision but I console myself with the fact that she accepts whatever you give her so at least she’s not picky about her surprises. This nickname though, it’s an excellent development.

Also, can I add that my daughter was riding a scooter? Because, you guys, that child can do a cartwheel off of a balance beam but she can’t ride anything with wheels. God forbid you ask her to pedal. It’s like you’ve asked her to put each of her markers into the fire one by one. A scooter! We’ve reached the big time!

Handling Death at 6 – Practice Session

Three years ago we finally took a deep breath. We moved RR from a good but not right for her preschool to a Montessori school. I worried constantly that summer and through the first year. Would they kick her out when they realized she didn’t care for circle time? Would we get a stern talking to when they discovered she couldn’t, wouldn’t potty train at three? Would she thrive there? Would she finally make friends? Would she learn? Would she be able to transition to public school? Were we making a terrible mistake?

We did not. Any fan of Montessori and, more importantly, any fan of our local Montessori would have lovingly patted us on the head to hear our fears but they didn’t because they are fans and there’s no head patting in Montessori. And they were right. Here we are in July, RR has graduated and is too old for their camp. She misses the work. She misses her teachers. We miss them too. And not just because together they made a good Montessori school, but because they are good, kind people.

Good people. People that when we called in tears last Monday to ask for help, to say that our beloved cat was dying, to say that we couldn’t bring RR with us to the vet, to say that our other lifelines (and there are a surprising lot of them) were all elsewhere, they said, bring her to us. We will keep her until you come. How many schools can you call and ask them to take your child?

The point of this post, and it’s a grim one, is that we had to say goodbye to imperfect, frustrating, biting, soft as a bunny, fluffy as a cloud, fun and funny, Sol. While he made it through the first scare, he never really bounced back. After a terrible weekend of staggering and listlessness, the vet confirmed that there was nothing more to do. One giant chunk broke off of my heart.

Debra and I spent last weekend, crying, petting him, and having a conversation about what more to do, there was a question with no answer. Do we tell RR so that she can say goodbye? How do we do it? Neither of our parents ever let us into the animal euthanasia conversation. Both Debra’s and my pets just disappeared with a comment after the fact. This didn’t seem right or kind or fair. And perhaps we were different children, but we felt like RR was mature enough to take it in.

What a terrible thought: This will not be the last death she endures as a child. Better to begin.

And so, she and I sat for a moment next to him. We held hands and petted his small head. Said goodbye.
Sol is very sick, I told her. I have to take him to the vet and he might not be able to come home.
He will die? she asked. Yes, I told her.
I’ll miss him.
Me too.
You’re crying mama. Big tears. Yes, I said. I’m very sad. I love Sol so much.

And that was it. When we picked her up from her amazing school, I told her that Sol had been too sick and that he died. She said, I’ll miss him so much. And that, was that. I doubt it will be so easy with her grandfather, but I’m so grateful for Sol’s last gift. A practice session.

 

And Now We Are Six

YOU GUYS.

She is turning six tomorrow.

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Also, you know how you think, oh, I wonder what she will look like when she’s older? Pretty much exactly like this. So I’m still wondering what she’ll look like at 15, 20, 50 but I’m thinking much of that little person is here to stay.

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But now, she does this:

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And this:

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And this:

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In fact, she mostly does that.

So six it is. There are a few things I thought she’d be doing at six that she still isn’t (riding a bike, asking where babies come from) but lots of things that I never really internalized would happen someday (making up jokes, reading, actually reading, asking about death and dying). She’s nervous about first grade, she bites her nails, her best friend is Meemo, the bunny she has slept with her whole life, she wants a scooter and a light up mermaid for the bath for her birthday (check and check), she can flip over the bar in gymnastics and do cartwheels, she is as kind as she is beautiful.

Debra and I still get frustrated that she has accidents and that we can’t save her from them. We hope she will grow out of it. This year will be hard. She will probably lose some of her pets and her grandfather. She will have a new school, friends, and teachers. She will encounter big girl expectations and consequences. She will find she can’t always bat her eyelashes to get out of them. She will face the pedals on a  bike and overcome them.

But she will also make it through a whole week and realize she hasn’t had an accident (please let this be true) and she will find that her remarkable empathy, coping skills, and deep personal relationships with adults and children will hold her up when I’m too mired in grief to truly help her. She will swim to the other side of the pool and laugh in triumph as she bobs in the water. She will read a whole book to herself in her room and open a secret world neither Debra nor I are privy to. She will find independence she didn’t know she had and successfully push for more. She will relish six, fully and completely. She will bask in its opportunity.

So happy birthday, baby. Welcome to a new world.

 

 

Big Ass Cat

One of the pitfalls of having wonderful pets is having those same wonderful pets near the end of life. Also, there’s the spite-peeing (ON THE DOG) and the toilet-swimming, but you know, even if you have to keep cleaning litter footprints off of the rim of the toilet, cats still purr and sometimes keep your feet warm and look cute even when you can’t regularly cuddle them (I’m looking at you, Solomon).

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Sol is (was?) fluffy and soft and practically begged to be scooped up and squeezed. At your peril. He is our hardy cat, weighing in at 15 pounds of pure cattitude, never sick, bounces back from anything that comes his way, plays in water, sits in the rain, plays fetch, charming…from afar.

But he started to look gaunt. He meowed more. Purred less. He lost weight at an alarming pace. He upped his litterbox misbehavior. He was no longer the big ass cat you could trip over in the night as he solidly, silently, sits at your feet waiting for your attempt to walk.

 

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So off we went to the vet. I’m not generally the vet runner but a string of events left me the designee and for the best since had things gone less well, she’d have been dealing with a dead cat and dead is not Debra’s thing. But, the conversation still had to be had and he is still very very sick from and undetermined background cause and so we’re giving a steroid and antibiotic course a chance to see if he can rediscover life. As the vet says, some cats bounce back quickly, and other cats will not and if that’s the case, there is no further treatment we will try. No obvious cancer, possibly kidney failure, but alarmingly anemic and, well, it doesn’t look good for 13-yr-old Sol.

It’s not totally a surprise, we have three”senior” animals. As I said to the vet, we will be spending more time together in the next couple of years. And that’s super sad. And a reality. And just not the thing I need right now (or ever. Who does?) Wish Sol peace, however it turns out.

 

Ways Cancer Doesn’t Suck: Anxiety Edition

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I know you’re utterly familiar with my mental state if not the list of medications that keep it happily in the zone of “mental state” and not just “mental”. Is that a 90’s reference? Needless to say, it’s a fine line we walk over here but we’re walking it.

Prior to cancer (not my own which seemed, somehow, less anxiety-causing although I suppose it wasn’t really, just more of an intense scream and less of a low, steady tearing out of my heart), I had a prescription for an anxiety medication that caused me to care less but to also have a splitting headache not too long after getting to the care-less point. And, since the fact of knowing I would GET a headache made me more anxious, the bottle still sits in the cupboard, mocking me with its potential but being, in my opinion, nigh untouchable.

But the anxiety, it didn’t go away. It didn’t dissipate or get less. In fact, I fell into a panic attack or two just when I thought I’d become the sort of person who could sagely look upon someone else’s panic attack with empathy and gratefulness without wondering how long until I was in that place, too. Twice (I’m a slow learner) I found myself noticing that I should really get up and leave the room/meeting/lecture/etc and try to breathe before I passed out, then attempting to do that very thing, and then finding that I actually could not physically get up or do anything actually except feel like the air was being sucked out of my lungs. They were a different sort of panic attacks. Before, something in particular would set them off for very sane (in a PTSD way) reasons. Now, they are here when they were not for no reason at all, but of course, for ALL the reasons, of which, let’s be honest, there are too many.

And so I asked my lovely physician for something else. I have an irrational fear of doctors thinking I am drug-seeking. I blame it on the emergency room visits when I was younger and blind from a migraine, doubled over and unable to speak clearly, and doctors and nurses treated me skeptically because you can’t verify migraine and so it’s one of the easier things to seek drugs for. But I asked, and I got the words out, which as a very real risk since the anxiety itself was about to send me right over the edge and now I have a different anxiety rescue and my god has it changed my life. I made it through father’s day yesterday without a hiccup and I can mostly catch it these days before I am too paralyzed to move. So it’s a silver lining I wish I didn’t have but I do, and that’s fine.

Speaking of anxiety, it is what has kept me from writing here and everywhere but perhaps if I promise more here soon, I’ll be able to jump this hurdle and come back to it.

Ways Cancer Doesn’t Suck: Uncles Edition

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My dad has two excellent brothers who married two interesting women. My dad is also, incidentally, excellent and my mother interesting so I’d say my grandparents did a pretty bang-up job. I also have pretty awesome cousins. In my mind, they have no faults but I suppose that’s what happens when you’ve only ever seen them a handful of times. Which is, I suppose, to say that my dad and his brothers aren’t particularly close.

I’m not sure my California uncle has ever visited my father (although the opposite has occurred) but if I lived in Monterey, I certainly would be happy to have visitors come to me as well. The glioblastoma has changed all sorts of things and so it is that my uncle has come to visit. My mother invited my other uncle to come at the same time. I don’t know why since her house is teensy and she has a sum total of 4 places to sit. She did it to my sisters, too. I think she wants to inflict family reunions on people when, in reality, everyone just wants my dad to themselves for awhile.

And so there we were, grilling on the porch, one uncle knocking back martinis as quickly as he is able and the other being felled by narcolepsy mid-chicken-flip. If you have never seen this in action, imagine someone just crumpling to the floor without warning. Everyone in my family just goes on as normal, which is both odd and comforting (although, if you’re my wife, just as shocking as some of the other ridiculous things that happen in this family).

It wouldn’t have happened if not for the cancer and I really like my uncles so it’s a silver lining in a whole mess of awfulness. Also, my dad’s birthday is today so, while not a silver lining, it’s pretty awesome that he got to see 70 after all.

 

 

 

 

Books for 5 year olds, part 2

This is one of those posts very much about five-year-olds, fair warning!

So, we’ve taken on some books this month with varying success (list here). Zita the Space Girl was a tremendous hit as was Ozma of Oz. Both are parts of series, which is nice. Both are also graphic novels. That worries me a bit with reading comprehension but she has BANG (every fifth Zita page) and CREE CREE CREE (winding Tik Tok the robot) and KUT-KUT-KA-DAW-KUT (Billina, the chicken) down pat. I’m not giving her enough credit here. She’s reading, really reading which is a relief since many Montessori educated kids trail behind a bit for a few months when they enter public first grade. I just don’t think she can read much at once and get it which I suppose is normal for her age. So CREE CREE CREE can’t be the sum total of her evening reading experience, even if it is super cute to see her apply it in robot situations outside of reading time.

The Boxcar Children and Choose Your Own Adventure: Return to Atlantis were a little old for her or a little less interesting, hard to say. She did manage to survive an entire Choose Your Own Adventure thread on her first try which is pretty remarkable if you have any experience with them. I think we’ll come back to the Boxcar Children later, or she can come back to them on her own. At least, assuming she isn’t buried in a graphic novel the rest of her life.

We also gave Inky the Indigo Fairy a go (part of the Rainbow Fairy series). It had only line drawings on every other page but the subject matter is near and dear to RR’s heart so it was a hit. I know she adores fairies (almost as much as princesses) but I had forgotten how utterly passionate she is about the color indigo and its placement in the spectrum. She has loved The Rainbow Goblins since she was small and, if you start talking rainbows, you had better be correct on indigo and violet lest you get a lecture on science.

The Princess in Black and the Hungry Bunny Horde is up next because, come on, that title.

 

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