Friday, January 24, 2014

Saying Good-bye to Neko-cat

The past few days have been such a blur.  I don't even know how to take it all in.  Last night, we had to make the difficult decision to put our cat, Neko, to sleep.
Neko would have been five years old in April.  That might sound young for a cat, but she had feline leukemia.  We didn't know she had FeLV when we picked her out at the shelter and were just devastated when we found out at her first vet appointment.  About 80% of FeLV cats don't make it past three years.  This virus attacks a cat's immune system and bone marrow.  There isn't really much treatment for FeLV, so after we learned that she was positive for FeLV, we just decided that we would give her the best life possible, no matter how short.

Neko did well for a long time.  She had asthma, so we just gave her a pill twice a day.  About once a year, she'd catch a bad cold.  We'd get scared...  But she always bounced back.  We were starting to get cocky about her health, and recently I mentioned how excited I was for her to turn five in April because she was really beating the odds.

Neko was always sweet, affectionate, playful, and lively.  She would wrestle the dogs--and win--and groom them afterward.  If someone came to visit, Neko would twirl around the visitor's ankles to say hello.  She was so hungry.  To know Neko was to have your food stolen by Neko.  She used to sit on my shoulder and literally take the food out of my mouth.  She was a bit wild too at times.  Despite being a strictly inside cat, she brought us many gifts.  She would bring us cave crickets in bed (sometime still alive).  She killed a bird and a bat that got in our house in Lynchburg as well as two lizards in Chesapeake.

Even though she came from a shelter and was taken off the street, she was so sweet.  She would play gently with Eliot.  If we went out, she would cry for us at the front door.  If Chris or I needed to stay up late doing work or school work or whatever, Neko would be right there.

About a month ago, Neko started losing a little weight.  I didn't think anything of it because she was a little heavy, so I thought we were just getting her at a better weight....  I guess that was probably the start of it all.  Then a few days ago, she was acting a little slow and tired.  Cats sleep a lot, so I again didn't think it was a big deal.  The next day, though, she was laying around, not eating, not drinking, not using her litter box, and looking ragged. The day after that was even worse, so we took her to the vet.  I knew it was over....  I knew the FeLV had gotten to her.  I knew there was next to nothing we could do.  The vet confirmed all of this.  Bone marrow cancer.  Possibly cancer in her kidney as well, but if not, definitely kidney failure.  There was a possibility we could treat the bone marrow cancer, but we'd have to do a lot of tests first, and then the treatment would be a "shot in the dark".  After that, it wouldn't be a matter of "if" the cancer would return but instead "when"--because it certainly would.  And even if that all went perfectly, we still had the issue with her kidney.  The doctor agreed that it was time to say good-bye.  Through tears we signed the papers.  And that was it.

I am still in shock about how quickly she went from fine to failing.

We haven't told Eliot yet.  He is at his grandparents' house in northern Virginia.  We had him stay with them so we could focus on doing whatever we needed to for Neko.  He comes home tomorrow and I don't even know how we're going to tell him because he loved her so much.  We lost our bunny about nine months ago, and he still asks about her.  I don't know if we'll get another cat or not.  We might, but not to replace Neko.  It'd be impossible to replace Neko.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Why Are Kids So Mean?

I always criticize myself for the words that I say to Eliot.  I try to speak blessings, not curses.  I try not to raise my voice too much.  I want to speak life into him and build up his esteem--and never tear him down.

Not everyone has this approach, though, and I can't protect Eliot from everything.  Lately, he has had a couple of rough days at the park.  Some kids told him that they hated him.  Another day, a girl pushed him off the playground equipment (which is at least five feet tall) and he hit a metal pole before falling onto the ground on his back.  He could have really gotten hurt.  And what was he doing to deserve such treatment?  He just was asking to play.  Now, I'll admit that Eliot is not always an angel at the park.  He has tackled a kid before (trying to play, not being mean) and I made him apologize.  And these kids' parents did tell them to stop, but they didn't say they were sorry.  And the damage had already been done.

It's heartbreaking.

What can I do to protect Eliot from rejection?

There isn't much I can do in some ways, and yet there is also so much.

I can continue to build him up and remind him that he is valuable, important, and special.

I can surround him with friends his age that are nice to him.  He goes to soccer class once a week where he plays structured games with other kids.  He has a number of friends his age--and they all are kind to him.  I try set up playdates every couple of weeks at least, but maybe I should try more.

And finally I can talk to him about what happened.  I can tell him that those kids were not being nice.  I can tell him that they probably didn't mean it, but they should not have acted that way.  I can encourage him to not do the same.

Eliot has also had some really great experiences at the park.  He makes friends easily and sets up games of chase.

I'm sure this is just the beginning of working through mean exchanges with other kids.  I recall friends being cruel to me when I was younger too, and I remember how it hurt.  I hope that we can instill in Eliot an understanding of his worth and where that worth comes from.

"I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well."  Psalm 139:14

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Life Lately and Potty Training

Life has been rather quiet lately, and I have been feeling cooped up.  We are working on potty training, so we have tried not to go out and about too much in efforts to remain consistent.

Tuesday was Eliot's third birthday (ahhh!), and since we already had his party, we wanted to do some little special outings.  I took him to his soccer class in the morning where he behaved the worst he ever has (go team...).  Afterward, we had lunch at Qudoba so he could get guacamole and chips, which he thinks he gets every week after soccer.  Then we went to Target to pick up some groceries, a birthday toy, and a birthday bag of Cheetos.  After dinner, we drove out to get him a donut for dessert.  During this car ride, Jack screamed the whole time, Eliot tried to comfort Jack, and our dog yelped and whined (he has been in a lot of mysterious pain lately, so we brought him with us to avoid having him stressing out with us leaving--that plan backfired).  It was stressful to say the least, and I think we were all ready for bed when we got home, but, ya know, maybe car rides at night just aren't a good idea anymore with Jack.

Potty training has been going the best it has yet.  It is our third attempt.  Chris asked me a few times if we were the worst parents ever since our almost three-year-old refused to use the potty.  Before I had kids, I honestly figured I'd have my future children potty trained by two or two and a half.  Three seemed so late.  But, really, kids are so different.  Eliot is a smart boy.  He is independent and has to know how everything works.  When I tried to take away his diapers and put him in underwear last time, he would have nothing to do with it because he was afraid he'd have an accident.  He got really upset about it, so I decided to wait a few months.  I wanted to keep it all positive.  We didn't need crying over potty training.

This time, though, he was fine with the underwear once I got it on him.  He had a couple of accidents until I made him sit on the potty for 40 minutes after drinking.  And he used the potty!  Ever since, we've had just a few accidents (maybe one a day?), but he has used his little froggy potty and also the big potty.  He knows what to do, but I'm not sure that he understands when he has to go or quite how to hold it yet.  The more we practice, though, the more he will get it.  And we're certainly on the right path.  I'm really excited for him, and he gets so proud of himself whenever he uses the potty.

I've been taking the boys out together by myself lately a bit more.  Trips to get icecream.  A quick park visit in the cold.  Off to the grocery store.  With a new baby, I felt like I was in "survival mode" and had an excuse to do nothing by myself.  But when does having a baby cease to be an excuse?  When is it simply the new norm?  Jack isn't a hard kid, and Eliot listens fine enough most of the time.  The hardest thing about taking the two around town is getting Jack's dang carseat in and out.  I suppose two kids serves as an "excuse" for many things (like having a cluttered house or ordering pizza for dinner or having a pile of laundry in the hallway--which I currently do, by the way) depending on the day (whether or not they're being difficult), so I'll take the good days and the adventures with just mom when I can.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Dear Eliot: Three Years--The Last Letter

Dear Eliot,

Today, you are three years old.  We practiced us asking you how hold you were and your response.  Three years old.  You are not a baby anymore.

At your first birthday party, we celebrated the end of your infanthood.  I celebrated the accomplishment of "making it through" the first year with all of our firsts--giving birth, your first night at home, nursing for six months, learning to eat, your first word ("nana"), and so much.  Our sweet, bald-headed boy with hazel eyes.  Growing up so quickly.  It felt significant because we survived and learned so much together.

On your second birthday, your hair had grown in blond--almost white--and you had obvious interests and preferences.  You had become such an individual, yet you still were a baby in your limitations.  You were trying to learn how to be a person and communicate.

Now at three, you are no longer our baby.  You are all boy.  We celebrated with a Cars and Planes party because you said you wanted both.  You said, "We will have balloons and cupcakes and I will be so happy!"

At three, we are celebrating your autonomy.  You sleep in your own room in a regular bed (though you still creep in our room in the early morning).  You feed yourself and tell me what you want to eat (and what you don't want to eat).  You brush your own teeth.  You can buckle (and unbuckle...) your own carseat.  You play soccer.  You can say anything you want and seem to remember everything.  The last step out of babyhood is pottytraining, which we have been working on over the past few days--and you're doing great!

I love the adventurer that you are.  You love to run and explore.

I think more than anything, we are celebrating that we (you, your dad, and I) have worked hard at trying to shape you into a decent person.  And, what do you know, we're doing pretty all right!  I can tell because you are so kind and sweet to others.  Maybe you have trouble sharing sometimes, but you are very concerned with other people.  If your dad or I seem stressed, you approach us and encourage us, saying, "It'll be all right.  It is OK!"

I love seeing you interact with your brother.  I love how you try to read to him, give him toys, share your food with him (not yet, little buddy), and comfort him when he cries.  You love to make him laugh, and though it is extra crazy sometimes, I let you jump and clown around in attempts to make him giggle.  You always get him to laugh.  I love the bond you have with him.  You tell me that he is "so cute" and "sweet".  You are constantly trying to cuddle with him on the floor and get blankets for him.  I can't imagine a better big brother for him.

Thank you for being so forgiving.  I try really hard not to lose my patience, but sometimes it happens.  Sometimes I snap.  And I am so sorry.  However, you forgive me quickly and shower me with love and acceptance.  You are always eager to help.  You shout in a deep, super hero voice, "I will help you!  I am so strong!"  It is so funny.

Looking back, it has been amazing to see how much you have changed since last year.  Holidays and birthdays are making more sense to you.  Last year, you went along with Christmas, but the magic and wonder of it all really seemed to sink in this time.  As we counted down the days, you kept asking to "go to" Christmas.  It finally came and all the decorations and details made sense--like why we had those "big socks" hanging from the mantle.

I have learned so much from you over these past few years, and I still have more to learn.  When I found out that I was pregnant with you, I was so full of joy, but I was also afraid.  I was afraid I would fail you.  I was afraid that I couldn't do it.  Looking back, we have done fine together, and you have grown into an amazing boy with strong character.  You're still growing and learning, of course, but you are well on your way.  I love you, Eliot.  You made me into a mother and changed me for the better.

Sunday, January 5, 2014


I began reflecting on the New Year back in the middle of December.  A lot changed for us last December.  Around the middle of the month, we packed up all of our belongings into a moving truck and locked the door of our first home--a house that had been our dream and then spent about eight months trying to sell.  It had been a long, long road, and then we moved back home.  About a week later (the 22nd, I believe), we closed on our new house in Chesapeake.  Everything about it was bittersweet.

In that time, we also announced that I was 12 weeks pregnant with our second baby. So much has changed.  So much has changed.

And maybe it also is pressing on my heart so much because Eliot will be turning three years old in nine days.  He won't be a baby at all anymore.  His appearance from last year has changed so much.  He looked big to me back then, but now he is... so much more grown, even.  I didn't see it as it was happening, yet here he is:  a boy.

Looking back, at the beginning of the year, Eliot was in full-swing terrible twos.  Tantrums and melt-downs in public.  Everything felt like a fight.  He was going through a food strike too--he would only eat fruit snacks.  I felt like a bad parent.  Because nothing was easy, and I so rarely "won".

I know I didn't do everything perfectly, but we made it through.  Looking back, we've made such progress.  Melt-downs in public are rare instead of common and usually are the result of being over-tired and hungry.  We face new challenges now.  Eliot asks "why?" about everything, including silly things like why the sun is up or why the aquarium is closed at bedtime or why he can't put cars on Jack's head.  He is curious.  He is exploring boundaries and finding his pecking order, so to say.  Sometimes I feel like a bad parent again, but for different reasons.  However, this time I know we'll make it through again to new challenges.  In 2015, I'll look back and say how things have changed.

In the beginning of 2013, I had a two-year-old and an ever-changing body with a growing belly.  Our family has grown, changed, and become more full.  It is hard for me to believe that Jack has been with us for half of the year.  Pregnancy (and the year itself) seemed to drag on forever.  Both have ended, though, and Jack is far from the newborn we brought home from the hospital.  I knew I wanted two kids, but even when I was pregnant I didn't realize how incomplete our family was without him.  I didn't know how full a second baby would make our home feel (I mean in a good way).  I have written it before, but our Jack truly healed my heart after it had been broken by loss on June 1, 2012.

2012 was a hard year for us.  We went through a lot of heartache and uncertainty.  A lot of loss.  A lot of questions.  A lot of family members in pain.  I had hope that 2013 would be different, that we could start over, and that perhaps we could find healing.  We had a great year, and I can't wait to see what 2014 will bring.

Friday, January 3, 2014

This Past Month

I can't believe that I haven't written in almost a month....  I didn't even write the boys' letters this month, so I will definitely need to go back and update those.

This past month has been busy and difficult in different ways.  At the beginning of December, we took a small trip to Williamsburg.  My parents had a week-long timeshare there, but only could stay a few days.  The rest of the week was ours!  I was looking forward to catching up on my "missed pool time" from this past summer due to having Jack.  I planned to spend a lot of time at the indoor pool.  Well, our plans didn't work out.  Jack's sleeping habits have been growing worse and worse.   It's been crazy.  On his best nights, he was getting up every two hours, but not necessarily to eat.  Sometimes he'd just cry for two hours.  On his worst nights, I would have to sleep on the couch with him and allow him to nurse all night (or really just using me as a paci).  I couldn't stay in our room because his constant crying would wake up both Chris and Eliot (even though Eliot was in his own room!!).  It was hard.  So, yeah, Jack did that our first and only night in Williamsburg.  Not to mention the whollllleee time Eliot kept asking to go home.  That kid does not get vacations!  We did go to the pool once and then to Christmastown.

Our Christmastown adventure ended this way....  In case you don't know, Christmastown is really just Busch Gardens (an amusement park) all decked out for Christmas.  Tons of lights and decorations...  It's really nice!  As we were finishing up, though, we waited for a train ride around the park.  Then I smelled it.  Jack had a diaper just as the train pulled up.  I told Chris to get on and that I'd meet in somewhere.  But where?  The train station in France!  That is what Chris said.  Well, OK!  I can figure that out!  So I ran off with Jack in his stroller to find a bathroom.  I found one in Ireland.  And the diaper was a blowout.  I mean, everywhere. I can do this....  I got him all cleaned up and clarified with a person who worked there how to get to France.  Jack was screaming and cryinggg.  It was dark and I was running as fast as I could so I could get there and take Jack out.  But get this.  THERE ISN'T A TRAIN STATION IN FRANCE.  And Chris's phone battery died!!!!  How would I ever find him (and Jack is still screaming)?!?!  I asked someone who worked there (again) if there was a train station in New France.  He pointed me to the right direction.  As I was almost there, I thought I heard a faint voice calling my name.  But I didn't see anyone.  It was dark, as I said.  I kept walking.  And then heard my name again.  Chris and Eliot found me!  Phew!

We headed out then.  The boy fell asleep in the car.  And when we got home, we realized that Eliot had locked a door that doesn't have a key, meaning we were locked out of our house.  It was late.  Eliot was crying.  Jack was crying.  I was going to cry.  Fortunately, my parents were there with plans to drop the dogs off for us and they helped us break into our own house.  Gaaaah!

So, that trip was kind of a bust.

After that, we had final grades to submit for work, so it was best that we got home to finish up the term strong.  We also were trying to get all of our final things together for Christmas (and finish up Christmas shopping because, man, that happened fast!).  Right after we posted final grades, we had these freakishly warm days in December.  We took advantage of them by going to the beach twice.  As it turns out, Jack loves eating and playing with sand.  And of course Eliot loves running on the beach and flirting with waves.  I didn't get much beach time this past summer while pregnant and after I had Jack, so it was really refreshing to sit on the beach with everyone having fun.  While pregnant, I was always so uncomfortable (and even threw up once).  When we would go with Jack as a newborn, I'd just be worrying about him being too hot the whole trip and I couldn't get in the water.  It is going to be completely different this summer--and I can't wait.

For Christmas Eve, we went to my parents' house and had dinner with them, my sister's family, and my aunt's family.  This year, Eliot was very eager to open presents and try to make sense of all of this Christmas business.  It has been so much fun to watch his eyes light up while looking at decorations and hilarious to hear all of questions, like why we have big socks hanging on the mantle.

Christmas morning, Eliot and Jack dug right into their presents.  I think Eliot liked getting "double presents" because, as he says, Jack will share.  And perhaps not surprisingly, Jack really enjoys grabbing all of Eliot's new toys too.  We're doing OK with all of this sharing stuff!  Not perfect, but, you know, we're doing fine.

Chris's parents and sister came in town on Christmas day, and, man, Eliot was stoked to see them.  I didn't even tell him they were coming because I'd be hearing about it all week.  Eliot had so much fun with all this extra attention.  We all went to the movies to see Walking with Dinosaurs, which has horrible writing, but they're dinosaurs.  And you know Eliot loves him some dinosaurs.

Somehow, though, Eliot ended up sick the next morning.  It just seemed like a cough, but it kept growing and growing.  Two days later, Jack had the same cough and I felt sick as well.  I figured it was a cold because their fevers were low, but I wanted to make sure.  Off to the doctor we went.  They confirmed that it was a cold, and I think Eliot is getting better each day, but Jack just seemed to keep on getting worse.  He was supposed to have his six-month well visit yesterday, so they just turned it into a sick visit.  Sure enough, he has a double ear infection.  It's still the early stages, and I'm thankful that we will be fighting it off before it gets bad.

And then there's New Years...  I feel like I should have an entire post just on my thoughts on New Years, but I'm not really a big resolution kind of gal.  I just like looking back.  Perhaps that is why I write so much and then feel so disappointed in myself when I don't write.  Anyway, we had a quiet New Year's Eve.  We watched some movies and ate mac'n'cheese for dinner (I'm not kidding).  We let Eliot light some sparklers and watch our neighbors' fireworks.

These days, Eliot is still a little sick, but pretty much acting normal.  He wants to play all day despite his lingering cough.  Jack is on his second day of antibiotics.  Somehow, his sleeping habits are improving without me even doing anything different.  He sleeps in his crib in his own room most nights.  On good nights, he gets up twice.  On bad nights, he is up all night.  Honestly, those good nights are enough for me to get by.  Before, it was taking its toll on me, and I must admit that I have cried a few times out of exhaustion and frustration.  I mean, people have to sleep eventually, you know?  However, we're making it work.  And I can deal with this just fine.

I can't believe it is January already.  I can't believe my baby is six months old.  I can't believe it is 2014.