How I Spent The Last Saturday Before Christmas

Sat 22 Dec 2013

Last night The Boss swung past the vet’s to pick up Foster Cat’s body from their freezer. They gave him to us in a big biodegradable cardboard box. We drove over to our old house late last night so we could bury him today at a pet cemetery close by. The Boss hasn’t been too affected by the old boy’s death up till now – partly because he was getting very fed up cleaning up the pee and poo he’d been decorating the house with, partly because Foster Cat had sprayed him a few times, and partly because I was the cat’s main carer – but carrying the little coffin from the boot of the car to our garage (very cold overnight) upset him. I’m glad we got to take him ‘home’ briefly because I think he loved living in this little town. He was well-known in our street, marching up and down that hill a few times a day with the kids! (He’d walk us all down to school, then sit and wait under a bush till I and at least one minx came back again, then shepherd us back up the hill, rounding up any straggling girls).

DSCF8148We went to the pet cemetery this morning and met the man who runs it. He does it out of the goodness of his heart and won’t accept payment (though he thankfully did accept a donation that we gave him to use as he sees fit, whether to buy supplies for the cemetery or to gift to a charity of his choice). It’s a beautiful place. He’d already dug a hole and picked out some stones to Foster Cat’s grave.

Westerly view

Westerly view

The ‘ceremony’ itself was a bit awkward, but in hindsight I think it was important to ‘end’ everything for the girls. The man made it really lovely for us as best he could: he wheeled Foster Cat’s coffin a few metres to the grave in his wheelbarrow, then he and The Boss took the cat out the box. I wasn’t expecting that, and wasn’t really prepared to see my lovely old boy again, dead, with his ears bent over with rigor mortis. Still, it did give us the chance to see that the

Northerly view

Northerly view

vet had taken the trouble to wrap Foster Cat lovingly in his fluffy blanket with his wee head peeping out, like he was tucked in the box for bed. The youngest 2 didn’t seem fazed by this, but sensitive Maxi Minx started to cry. I hurriedly reminded the kids that this wasn’t Foster Cat; this was just what was left of his body, now, and to remember that he wasn’t hurting anymore. I’d had a 60 second sort of memorial speech ready, but it kind of got bombed out the water with the sudden and unexpected appearance of the cat!

Easterly view

Easterly view

After The Boss and the man lowered Foster Cat into the hole, the man covered over Foster Cat’s head with the blanket. Maxi Minx dropped in a be-ribboned posy that we’d made that morning from all the flowers that were still in bloom in our garden (I know – at the end of December! Mad!), and bits from some of the plants that Foster Cat had liked to hide under. The man covered up the grave, then gently pressed it in with his feet. Mini and Midi wailed at him standing on the cat, so I quickly said “Tuck, tuck, tuck!”, which is a kind of code I’ve used since the girls were tiny: I say it as I’m tucking them into bed every night, and quietly again when they’re asleep and I have to tuck a little minx limb back under the sheets. I distracted the kids by telling them my favourite stories about Foster Cat while the man ‘tucked him in’ with sand from the harbour, then put on another dressy layer of pea gravel. On top of that, I put some painted stones that the girls had painted last year. They’d suggested themselves that we use those stones to decorate Foster Cat’s grave. Maxi used a stone to press in a paw imprint in the stones at the bottom.

The kids then legged it to explore the rest of the cemetery, The Boss trailing, while I stayed and chatted with the man for a while. Eventually we all left. I looked back to see the man stood still by Foster Cat’s grave for a long while, motionless. What a lovely old soul he is!

DSCF8156This evening I painted Foster Cat’s name and date of death on a lovely, heavy, flat stone I picked up from Bertha’s Beach, Falkland Islands, in 1999. I’d been keeping it to paint a landscape on, or maybe something to mark the house, but I figured it was better used as a kind of headstone. I’ll put it above his stone rainbow on the way back to Aberdeenshire tomorrow and take some photos.

Edit: photos now up. I’ve also included ones that show what a lovely spot the cemetery is at – wonderful views of the Moray Firth dolphins, cormorants and seals.

After the cat’s ‘funeral’, we went to a local cafe for big, late breakfasts. After the minxes were happily troughing (Maxi chose a very sophisticated scrambled egg and smoked salmon on a bagel), I commented that sitting quietly, eating, and sharing funny stories of the cat, made it feel like we were at a wake. It was actually just what we needed.

That lovely pause and reflection over, we were booted brutally back into the reality of the last shopping Saturday before Christmas when we stopped at Elgin for something to eat that night. In the carpark, a woman in an oversized Chelsea Tractor made a real mess of reversing out her space. She managed to mount the pavement, graze a lamp-post, and had me and another passer-by side-step for cover. I raised my eyebrows, inwardly reflecting that maybe she needed to use her mirrors and windows to see out of, instead of checking her reflection in the rear-view. She rolled down her window and yelled at me haughtily, “Are you actually looking at my car?!” I think the nonsense of the statement might be why I managed a non-confrontational “Naw, don’t think so, hen” instead of a more fun “Christ Almighty, go buy some driving lessons!” or “Arrrrrgh, you’ve driven over my child!” or even a witty “Feck off!” In defence of my sheep-iness, I was still reeling from the past few days.

In the shop, the heaving masses, long queues, aggressive shoppers, overly-loud music and antics of 3 bored, naughty minxes was a little too much for me. I fetched a bottle of wine and clung to it instead of letting it roll down the conveyor belt. “You can let it go now!” the patient till assistant smiled. I don’t think she *actually* uncurled my fingers from around the neck – I think I might have let go by myself so she could scan it. Oh boy, am I looking forward to sharing that with The Boss later!

Sleep Well, My Beautiful Boy

Update on Foster Cat:

1 Nov 2013: after switching from steroid injections every week or so, he started taking prednisolone (steroid) tablets. And suddenly he started getting his miaow back! He’s had an up and down month, but the ups have been very, very good and he’s been a happy old boy.

1 Dec 2013: The ups have plateaued off and he had a steady month of being spoiled rotten and loved.

9 Dec 2013: He’s struggling to eat and wants to sleep all the time. I can persuade him to eat his steroids by hiding them in lumps of cheese (ha! You should see me persuading minxy children and recalcitrant husbands to take their medicines…), and can always coax him to drink a little milk. But it’s taking him all day to eat a pouch of wet food – he’s interested, but he won’t or can’t eat much.

Wed 18 Dec

It was the usual hectic morning at Garrison Trout, but it came to an abrupt halt when I went in to fetch Foster Cat’s breakfast to feed him his morning steroid pill. He was lying awkwardly on his cushion, last night’s dinner still untouched. And the little lumps of his best-loved cheese that hid last night’s steroid pill were intact. I gave him his all-time favourite treat of a Crispie. Nothing. Not even a sniff or acknowledgement that it was there. He stiffly jumped down and waddled to the door to get out, breathing quickly. I let him outside and made him up a bowl of just-warm milk (another sure-fire favourite). He wouldn’t come in from his new hidey-hole and didn’t struggle when I carried him in. He looked at the milk and slunk off to the sofa.

I stopped the minxes from half-killing each other and sadly told them that they needed to say goodbye to Foster Cat: I was going to call the vet because I thought his time had finally come. They calmly and gently stroked him and told him how much they loved him. Maxi whipped out a pencil and paper and drew a quick portrait of him.

While they did that, I had a long mental check: was this sudden? Nope, he’d given us a few scares last week, and he’d never really gotten much butter. Did he seem to be in pain? Yes. Was the poor old boy suffering? Hell, yes. Could I think of any other alternative? No. Shit.

I tried to get hold of my brother via Skype, because this really would be the last time he’d be able to see his beloved cat. Yet again, the time difference defeated us. I called the vet. They wanted us in immediately. Double-shit – no time to really say goodbye. But… he really was beyond miserable. Even kisses from Maxi didn’t make him move (he usually scarpered very quickly at getting soppy kid kisses).

I had to take Mini in with me, and the receptionist kindly agreed to keep her occupied while I went in with Foster Cat. The vet gave him a quick check over, then shaved the fur off his leg. I quipped that this must be the worst part of her job and she agreed. I picked up some of his shaved fur and stuffed it in my pocket. I stopped trying not to cry and sobbed and blubbed over my beautiful boy. I gathered him in my arms and croaked stupid stuff, like what a good boy he was; a very clever boy; the very best boy. The vet gave him a sedative and he passed out asleep in my arms. She gave him the heart-stopper and he died.

For a long while I stroked his warm, soft fur and sniffed his strangely-sweet-smelling head. Then I stood up, turned my back on him, and walked out with his empty cat basket to collect my chatty 3 yo. And that’s when I discovered that I’d left my purse at home…

The vet will hang on to Foster Cat’s body until the weekend when we’ll go bury him.

cat pampered 2

One Poorly Cat

Remember I’d said in September how depressed poor old Foster Cat was at having to be an indoor cat? And how much he perked up at finally getting outside?

Well, the same day I noticed that his breathing was noisy and his purr was a bit ‘off’. We’ve been no stranger to Foster Cat’s strange vocalisations: when he came to us, he didn’t miaow – it was soundless, like a mime artist. He barely made any noise except for purring. Except when he had to go to the vet – then he’d make enough noise! We put the funny noises down to him maybe being over the moon at getting outdoors and thought nothing more, especially as his appetite had come back.

The next day, the funny breathing was still there, but otherwise he was a happy, active, normal Foster Cat.

Maybe 3 days later, although he still wanted out, he didn’t really want to explore or do much active. He was also sneezing a bit. When we took over his care, we’d gotten his annual injections back up to speed, so I’ve never seen him poorly or sniffly. Did cats catch colds and flu?

The day after that, though, when he went out he just sat down on the step. He didn’t mind if I picked him up and carried him indoors. His breathing was noisy all the time, not just when he was purring. He was definitely lethargic. I was definitely unhappy and watched him closely all day, willing the hours to pass quickly till it was Monday again and the vets would be open (I didn’t know about emergency vets… duh).

The next day was Monday. When he breathed that morning, I could see his tummy flaring below his ribs. Stop. Put everything else on hold. Straight to Yellow Pages and find a vet immediately. Luckily there was one in the next town, who saw him that afternoon. She wasn’t happy with his breathing either, and asked for him to come back the next day for a chest x-ray. She gave him steroid and diuretic injections in the meantime and told me to starve him because he’d need an anaesthetic for the x-ray.

Next morning (1 October) I took my now-hungry big boy to the vet for his x-ray. Overnight I’d wondered if the 3 engorged ticks we’d found on him 3 weeks ago – obviously a leaving present from the woods near our old house! – had given him a tick-borne infection? I asked if he could have his bloods checked. I was told to call back around 1pm.

The vet rang at 10.30am. It wasn’t good. She’d found a large mass in his throat when she’d tried to intubate him. The x-ray showed ‘suspicious little nodules’ in his lungs. The upshot was that he was too old and too ill for any operations; we could try and buy him a little time (days or maybe a few weeks) with steroids; or because he was still under anaesthetic she could euthanize him immediately. I surprised myself by bursting into tears. I’m not an animal lover (except flash-fried in a ginger and garlic-based sauce). Why was I breaking my heart over him? No way was he dying alone – he was coming home first to say goodbye. Oh hell, how was I going to tell the minxes? And I had the small matter of Foster Cat’s main staff (my little brother and his children) to tell first. The vet wasn’t too happy about letting him come home right away and kept hold of him till evening.

When we got him home, he wasn’t a happy cat at all. Neither was I – I was still tearful. I am never tearful. In general I am often angry but rarely upset. I think the old boy recognized this, because he spent the night cuddled up on a blanket I put beside my bed or right beside me on the bed. Now, he loves snuggling up beside Mini Minx, in a guarding, protective kind of way, and sometimes the other 2 if Mini pushes him away. But he’s never shown any interest in snuggling in my bed. We shared quite a moment that night.

Next morning, he was still depressed and unhappy, and the girls started the first of many painted portraits of him. Maxi in particular found it easier to express how she felt by painting than by trying to articulate her feelings in words. I’d sat the girls down after school and just told them simply that the vet had seen Foster Cat again, that he was very, very ill, and very old, and that he was going to die soon but not today. Maxi burst into immediate tears but the other 2 didn’t really process it right away.

Over the next few weeks, Foster Cat started a series of steroid injections. The first ‘big’ one turned him into a kitten again; he decided to attack the tree again… I opened the back door to let him out and he pelted hell for leather at the big sycamore tree. With a powerful pounce, he sprang at the trunk about halfway up, elegantly spreading his legs to catch the bark with 4 sets of claws. He hit the trunk. He suffered claw-failure. He slid cartoon-like down the trunk. I doubled over laughing. He prinked off aloofly, almost muttering, “You never saw nuffink; I wasn’t here”.

He’d lost so much weight that we decided to feed Mr Suddenly Very Hungry All The Time kitten food. We reasoned that if his throat was constricted, then it made sense to give him food with tinier chunks and to jam-pack it with calories. And with a prognosis of at best a few weeks left, we stopped stinting on the treats! He suddenly became one pampered feline: the odd bowl of warm milk, little bits of raw chicken when I was cooking it, little crunchie treats at bedtime… After a month, he’d regained most of his weight and was looking better, more alert, and far happier than he’d been in months, so long as I kept a close eye on him and got him an injection quickly as the previous one wore off: a lovely Indian Summer for him!

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Frrrrreedom!!

We now live about 30 yards from a very busy, fast dual carriageway. In fact, it’s so fast that I’ve seen 3 speed traps set up opposite the house in the few weeks we’ve lived here. I regularly get terrible frights when trying to drive onto, come off or cross that bloody road, and I’m normally a very determined, careful and in control driver. OK, so we’ve established that the road is a horrible one…

Assessing the weight-velocity ratio of the local seagulls, and likelihood of catching one

Assessing the weight-velocity ratio of the local seagulls, and likelihood of catching one

Foster Cat has been free to roam the English and Scottish countryside since birth, about 16-ish years ago. He’s taken to his frequent moves with aplomb, and prefers to sit outside in the rain and cold that sit indoors. The photo (left) is from 18 months ago, when he first got to sniff the sea air of our last home.

So: what do you think happens when you move such a cat indoors because you’re too scared to let him out for fear of him swiftly becoming an Ex Cat? Yep – he gets depressed and sad. He spends his days wistfully sniffing at draughts and ‘snapping’ at birds through panes of glass. He stops using his hated litter tray altogether and pees and poos where he likes.

He and Killer Cat share the enormous downstairs boot room, which has a massive toilet room and double shower, so I can easily clean it and can also close a door between them when they’re winding each other up. I was happy to soldier on cleaning up after him and getting more and better toys: think ‘Alton Towers for cats’ already, to paraphrase a friend. But Foster Cat has been getting sadder and spending more time glaring at the wall from his cushion instead of his usual watchful interest in the rest of the world.

Nearly as big as a 3 year old

Nearly as big as a 3 year old

His owners conferred and agreed better a happy cat for a brief period than a miserable cat for another few months till they pick him up: let him go outside!

So this morning, full of trepidation, I let him out.

He sat on the step and sniffed the air. Cautiously he stepped down, and sniffed again. His ears twitched and he looked alert. Spraying the door, he ‘prinked’ off to explored the trees (no trees at our last house – too windy for them to grow!). Mini Minx and I watched him circle the garden and trees, sniffing and licking. He came racing back to the door when I called, but wouldn’t come in. It was like he wanted to feel safe, but made sure to tell us He.Was.Stayinging.Outside.OK? He nipped through the fence and trotted down the next door to our landlords’ house, checking out the cows in the field. I shook his bag of crispy treats and he bounded over for a few. Eyeing up that tree again, he took a huge run up to it, and with a flying leap attacked it: loads of positive thinking. He clung on, spreadeagled for a few seconds, then slid off, gracelessly. Well, he is a cat OAP…

See Rob? He was actually out. And came back! Look at those ears - much happier big boy

See Rob? He was actually out. And came back! Look at those ears – much happier big boy

I let him sniff around for maybe half an hour while I attacked the hated ironing pile, calling him back when he got out of sight. Each time he came running, but didn’t come in the house. I coaxed him in with some treats, made a huge fuss of him and shut the door. After 15 mins or so, I let him back out again, and repeated the process: let him sniff around, call him back, ‘pet’ him verbally, and repeat.

He’s back in now for the rest of the morning, purring on the living room rug happily.

I’ll let him out again later, and I hope it keeps going as well as this morning. I’ll continue to hope that if he *does* stray on the dual carriageway and is hit, that it’s an instant splat and not a terrible lingering clip. And that no-one swerves to avoid him and causes a pile-up (me? Paranoid? Noooooo….) But Killer Cat is staying indoors because: (a) she’s happy staying in the warmth and being stroked and played with, unlike Foster Cat, and (b) I don’t think I or the minxes could cope with both cats being squashed on the road.

How Many Beaches in One Day?

I felt pretty yuck yesterday (11 July) – my Mum would have been 64, and it suddenly really upset me. I guess that’s the thing with grief: you think you’ve learned to live with it, and it suddenly kicks you up the arse. Anyway, I could either have mooched around feeling sorry for myself all that grey day, or I could gather up the minxes and get out to the beach in the bracing wind. What do you think I did..?

I asked the minxes what they fancied doing that day: CBeebies or how about the beach? They each bounced up and down in glee and asked if they could have boiled eggs in their picnic (Note: normal kids would have asked about buckets and spades, sandcastles, etc.) So: eggs hard-boiled, cartons of juice packed, sandwiches made, little pots of raspberries, cherries and baby tomatoes compiled, a ton of tissues (Midi’s sporting green bogeys) and nappies packed, and we were off.

Yeah, it’s tricky with 3 little minxes and just me to keep them out of mischief. I’m often asked how I cope. I reply that I don’t. The reality is that I employ strict discipline and very low expectations. And take a car if we have to go further than a mile. Well, the weather threatened to turn to ‘downpour’; a car offers an impromptu picnic and nappy-change spot; it can also cart the Sherpa-load of food and clothes changes you generally need.

We hit the middle of Cummingston beaches, the one that’s normally really interesting for beach-combing. Last time we were there we found enough good green sea glass to make 2 necklaces, and even a bit of red sea glass and a little cowrie shell. Yesterday? Nothing. Unless you count the red plastic diesel container. And the hundredweight of limpet shells that Maxi attempted to collect, probably for her latest beach sculpture. Hmph. Even she agreed it wasn’t a great day for beach-combing, so we ate half the picnic and wandered to the next beach (oooo, all of a few metres) and checked out the rock-pools. Nope, no sea anemones or starfish today. So we toddled a few more metres along to the next beach, a clean, sheltered, sandy cove. Maxi built some castles that looked suspiciously like the mountain sculptures from ‘Close Encounters fo the 3rd Kind’, Midi scampered around the sandstone slabs checking out the relative traction of her bare feet versus her wellies (that’s my girl!) and Mini licked the baby barnacles that made the rock face look like Moon rock. I got the hint that she wanted the rest of her lunch…

We watched a huge group of people from an Outdoor Centre set up 2 top-ropes over on Cummingston stacks. Bless, with all their orange helmets they looked like baked beans on toast! Watching the nesting seagulls catch food for their hatchlings reminded us not to go near the natural arches or caves. After an hour or so, we moved camp all of 2 minutes walk to the swing-park, where the minxes really enjoyed themselves. Midi especially clambered up and down the mini climbing wall, and tried to teach Mini how to place her feet and do it. Obviously I had to stay spotting for Mini, so Midi took some pictures because Maxi was busy dangling upside down on a rope somewhere. With Midi’s sudden speech development, and new climbing and photography skills, she’s becoming quite the accomplished little 4 year old!

Alas, we had to get home to take Foster-Cat to the vet. I was aware that his Real Owners had let his vaccinations slip for lots of reasons, but I wanted the vet to check him over anyway. He’s about 13 years old, seems to be quite active, still, and is hungry all the time. He’s a big cat, but is it fat? Am I feeding him too much or too little? I also have a firm belief that he understands English: he’ll sit on the doorstep mat and look disdainfully at me when I open the door to let him in, not moving until I say, “No, no, after you, Your Majesty”. Also, ever since I mentioned the word v-e-t, he’s suddenly started peeing against the minxes’ tent, my tent, the sofa, the kitchen cabinets… Maybe he’s getting his own back on me, because when I talk to him I affect a fake old man voice, like Grandad Tumble on CBeebies. Oh man, you don’t think he can read, do you?!

Anyway, he miaowed pitifully in his cat basket, but was good as gold at the vet, relishing all the strokes and attention. The vaccination was trouble-free, I got good advice, he’s a fit, healthy cat, and… he needs his broken tooth out. Ouch. And ouch in my wallet, too, but I can’t have him in constant toothache, can I? Poor old boy – it’s been broken off for a while. But the vet assures me he’ll be fine under anaesthetic. Hope so.

Whilst at the vet’s, the minxes were super-hyped up. Mini had only had 10 minutes nap, so her eyes were spinning and whirling, and she was on a different planetary system to the rest of us mortals. Maxi was very interested in everything going on around her, with lots of new, exciting posters to read and comprehend, so was totally oblivious to her family and cat. Midi was a little star: I’d warned them all beforehand that I’d have my hands full with a heavy cat and 3 tired little girls, so Maxi was in charge of Midi, Midi was in charge of Mini, and Mini was in charge of Foster Cat. Midi decided that she’d actually be in charge of everyone because they just weren’t up to it, so tried to responsibly hold her sisters’ hands in the carpark, whilst holding on to me, the cat basket, and open all the doors for us. She just didn’t get that she couldn’t do everything at once (awwwwww) so caused many a snarl-up. She tried so hard! It left me wondering where my Naughtiest Little Minx had gone. Not too far below the surface I think. I hope… 😉

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Cheeky!!

babywear rebozo hoernum fish

Cheeky Minx

(Tues 8 May)

We’ve been a right grumpy bunch the past 2 days. The long weekend was rather wonderful, albeit full of Falklands weather (hailstones, sleet, wind and blazing sunshine, all in the same 15 minutes. On repeat. Each day) which meant that I didn’t pay any attention to the sun and ended up a tad pink. So I suffered the minxes giggling ‘loser!’ at me for 2 days. ‘Loser’ is shorthand in our family for ‘sunburn victim’. To be fair it was only my chest, but I really should know better. Especially as the girls were trussed up in long, loose sleeves, hats and sunglasses. I’m no longer a big fan of Factor 1,000,000 suncream on children, now that my brood are 2 years old and over. God knows, Vitamin D from sunlight is in short supply up here in the Frozen North – we need all we can get! I think the secret is just to be sun-aware and cover up before you’ve had enough. Ahem. I need to take my own advice  Anyway, why so grumpy? Well, Monday night Mini Minx was up demanding “med-san” (medicine) for her eye. Eye? Do you have a sore eye, sweetheart? Oh, right, your eye. The one that lives in your mouth. Right where I think your molars are cutting… Uh-huh. So we gave her some Calpol (Calprofen seems to send her loopy and hyperactive) and her screams of pain and frustration blended seamlessly into screams of delight as she ran ragged round mine and The Boss’ bedroom for an hour. After finally getting her to bed, Midi came thundering in, complaining of nightmares. Another hour later, bed to our adult selves again, finally drifting off to sleep, only to be awoken by Foster Cat trying to budge me over so he could spread out. And later, Killer Cat doing the same thing, attempting to break The Cat Rule of no cats upstairs.

Last night, it was more of the same, but in reverse: we got a little sleep, then the cats woke us, then Midi, then Mini.

Around 6am I gave up trying to get back to sleep and persuaded The Boss to just get up and try to turn the yucky morning into something better. I talked him into making us all blueberry pancakes while I made Greek salads for 5 packed lunches. Tasted fine, but I bet it stank out a school and a work canteen with the amount of raw garlic I used (hehehehehehe).

Mini’s trying hard to say polysyllabic words: “Dada howma! Glap!” she smiled at me, nodding sagely.

“What…?”

“Dada howma! Howma! How! Ma! How! MAAA!” she frowned at me, like I was an idiot.

“I don’t understand, Mini. Say that again”.

She sighed. “Hawma! Hawma!” bashing my head. “Hawma! Dada! Hat”

“Oh!!!! Daddy’s helmet!” I gasped. She rolled her eyes: 25 months old 25 years attitude. “Ok, so what’s ‘glap’? What’s a glap? Where is it?” I guessed. She flexed her fingers. “Gloves?” I ventured.

“Yeeeee-ah!” she agreed, exasperated at having a fool for a mother, and shoving her finger up her nose.

So I scolded her: “No, I don’t want to see you picking your nose!” I guess the sharing lessons are sinking in: she promptly offered me her gooey finger. Yeuch.

 

Half-Trout, Half-Mouse

I must be part-mouse because yet another cat followed me home from school this morning. It’s mewling plaintively at me through the window, while Killer Cat and Foster Cat prowl menacingly around. (Though they won’t actually attack – they just keep showing it their bottoms. Cats…)

Anyone got any idea what to do? The cat has walked almost a mile to our house, following me, Midi and Mini Minx as we toddled our way up the hill. We didn’t stroke the cat, look at it, or pay it any attention even though it’s a beautiful, slinky black panther of a cat. But (a) I already have 2 cats, and any more would qualify me to be crazy old cat woman, and (b) I know where s/he lives normally (well, one of 3 houses).

I’ve been ignoring him/her, though it’s been hard. Poor thing! It’s wandering round and round the house, peeping through the windows at us. Should I catch the cat, put in a cat basket, and return it to where it appeared from originally? Should I just ignore and leave it to its own devices? Should I hope it follows us back down the hill on the lunchtime run?

Even though the situation probably will have resolved itself by the time you read this, I’d still appreciate advice, as it seems to be happening to me fairly frequently.

I’ll Thcweam and Thcweam and Thcweam

The first bit is really Shouty Old Trout Part II.

Since I dashed down this morning’s post, I’ve been reflecting on my shoutings and the unconscious thoughts that led to me blowing my stack at Maxi and Midi by the road. I’ve had a pretty testing day, and I’ve been humbled by some really lovely, loving and thoughtful replies to my original post, by email, message and reply to a Facebook status.

It seems that I’m not, in fact, alone in being a shrieking, paranoid, shrew-mother when it comes to scatter-brained offspring and roads. I feel a little less weird and over-reacting. Thanks, ladies xxx But as I said to my friend L, I think I need to go back a stage or 2 in my wee informal programme of becoming a less stressed mum, and do some consolidation by encouraging the minxes to go make and eat mud pies 🙂

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I said it was a pretty testing day. Well, Mini has been in a bad mood since 9.30am. She was happy enough toddling up the hill from school, sometimes even being allowed to let go my hand (woah, shocker!). In my street, the front gardens go right to the edge of the road; there is no pavement. Some of the local kids are encouraged to walk along the edge of the gardens, which is very safe and pragmatic. The Boss, however, wants the minxes to grow up with some road sense. So he prefers that they walk along the edge of the road and remain aware and alert to traffic. I see both perspectives. So although I encourage the girls to walk at the edge of the road, I won’t nag toooooo much if they stray onto the lawns. What I won’t tolerate, though, is my 2 year old scuffing through lawns and flower-beds, leaving Mini Minx sized thrash marks in bushes, and generally laying a trail of devastation like the Tasmanian Devil. She didn’t like me holding her hand. She hated that I continually picked her up from each lawn and plopped her feet back on the road. Most of all, she was incredibly frustrated that I didn’t react in pain to her new, sharp little fangs sinking into my hand, apart from calmly squeezing her cheeks hard to make her release.

She got home in a bad, frustrated mood. She then spent the next 2 hours getting up to all the mischief she could: hitting Midi, shouting at the cat (well, the one we’re fostering; she’s too scared of our old one), kicking over toys, ripping books. Normally I sit guard over the girls in the kitchen when they eat or drink anything; nothing is allowed in the living room. But sometimes, when you’ve got to go, you’ve got to go. So I went. And Mini immediately sneaked a full beaker of milk into the living room that she then threw over Midi and the settee. Both settees got fragged, actually. I had to give myself a strict Time Out to be able to shout coherently, never mind anything else.

The washing machine and tumbler have been going on all day since. 10 loose covers and 2 settee covers = 4 loads. As well as being made of heavy, motor-straining cotton, the fabric is also deeply-encrusted with glitter. My whites will never be the same again…

And that wasn’t the end of Mini’s strops. She refused to eat her lunch, insisted on being fed, then refused to eat off whatever cutlery I offered her. She wanted milk. NOW! But not in that beaker. Or that cup. Or that glass. Or that mug. She had a screeching tantrum at having to sit in her own car seat, preferring her sisters’ (no chance! Safety first, safety second, and you, Mini Would-Be Octopus, are going to be folded like a pretzel by your much stronger Mummy till you get into that seat and stay there). She ranted at our Foster Cat for sniffing disparagingly in her general direction. She went apoplectic at having to wear wellies in the rain instead of shoes. She furiously plucked her socks off, insisting on wearing a single, odd sock whose partner was lost eons ago.

Foster-Cat can climb bunk bed ladders. Or levitate. I’m not sure which.

To top it all off, Maxi bit Midi on the finger after The Boss put them to bed. It seems Midi had kept shoving her finger in Maxi’s mouth. Though why they were in the same bed I still haven’t established. “I’m so sorry, I forgot that I’m not allowed to bite Midi!” wailed an apologetic Maxi.

The Boss's favourite white pants, newly washed. Oops....
(Photo: Lazybum outlet, marketplace.secondlife.com)

Quick Update

Very quick update on what’s being going on the past 24 hrs. Just standard kid-stuff, but y’know, this being a diary, and all, it’s got to be logged.

Well, after hauling my sorry bum out of bed, I spent the rest of the day trying to be normal, running out of energy and collapsing on the sofa. And repeat. Again and again. The benefit of this was that I got to sit down and properly play with Mini Minx before she went to bed instead of tidying and sorting ‘stuff’ while she winds down by herself as I normally do. She started pressing my nose. So on a whim, I asked her: “Where’s your hair?” She sniggered and started rubbing her curls (which are currently the colour of Welsh gold). I squealed and clapped and praised her. “Where’s Mummy’s ears?” She poked a finger in each as she laughed. No way… When did my baby learn all these body parts? It turns out she knows nose, mouth, eyes, ears, chin, hair, fingers, toes, tummy. I laughed and laughed at her industriously brushing her toes from side to side. Clever little sausage.

After watching Torchwood (Russell T Davis really needs to get an assistant with the gumption to tell him when he’s writing nonsense), me and The Boss noticed the sky was clear. Very clear. OK, the moon was full and rising. And being in the very north of Scotland, it wasn’t yet completely dark at 2300hrs. Still, being the eternal optimist I wondered if we’d see any of the Perseid meteor shower. The Boss laughed at me looking, but he stopped when I saw 3 in the space of 30 seconds. We decided to wake Maxi up.

Last year, we let Maxi stay up late to see the Perseids, but they were a complete wash-out: she didn’t see a single one, then wouldn’t go to sleep, was grumpy as hell the next day, and her sleep patterns were wrecked for a week. So we didn’t do it lightly.

She woke fairly easily, and I carried her downstairs. The Boss had made us all cool viewing stations: a cushion each along the edge of the French windows, so we could lie with our heads by the window, staring up at the sky, in the warmth. With the moon hidden on the other side of the house, we saw a fair few meteors over the 15 mins we lay there! We chatted about comets, meteors, meteorites, moons and dust. Maxi saw a big meteor that I saw too, and a huuuuuge one with The Boss when I’d legged it to calm a night-waking Mini. She went to bed happy and talked of nothing else the whole of today.

Today was a tad testing. I’d had plans to get into town and tackle my massive to-do list, but I had a bit of a relapse and ended up staying in all day. Before 0930hrs, Midi had bitten Maxi (and I’d exploded and smacked her and felt sooooooo guilty as she cried “Mum-meeee! Mum-meeee!” miserably. I promised never, ever to smack her again if she promised never, ever to bite anyone. I think she meant it as much as me). Then Mini upturned an entire beaker of water over the table, books and floor. The cat left us a present of 2 dead mice (yes I know that’s the feline equivalent of a bunch of flowers and box of chocolates, but it’s pretty gruesome when you’ve a dodgy tum).

Nice things happened, too: the girls all helped me pull up the now-spent poppies that have been obscuring the vegetable garden. Mini went down for her nap easily (I held her as we said goodnight to everything [fishing boats, seagulls, birds, flowers, trees, grass, dogs, cats, mice, cars…] then I put her in her cot, she rolled over onto her knees and shoulders, I draped a blanket over her and she pulled the edges of it tight round her little arms and tucked them under her chest. She then closed her eyes and promptly fell asleep. Awwwwww). I got my 4 smelly pillows and entire mountain of washing done. But best of all, me and my eldest minxes played at cafes.

Maxi and Midi had broken open their play chest of plastic bling and cackled as they divided it. Midi asked for her earrings to be clipped on (when and from where did she get them?!) so I was alerted to their shenanigans. They got a dolly each and decided to ‘go for a coffee and a chat’. They pulled out the coffee table, put a chair either side of a corner and their babies opposite and chatted about jewellery. I tell you, they don’t get this from me! They caught me laughing so I decided to play along and be the waitress.

I gave them a fold-out book as a menu and gave them the daily specials of the few things we had suitable for afternoon snack. They chose and I brought it all in, with folded up kitchen towel as napkins, and lemonade in a beaker with straws as a special treat (and pom-bears as a super-special treat because Maxi had tidied without me asking). I went back to the kitchen to grab a coffee and Maxi came scuttling in:

“Excuse me, Miss, do you have any baby food for my baby?”

“Em yes, I have pretend baby food”

“I know that!! What kind?”

“Um, carrot, beef hotpot, sweetcorn and yum-yum”

Maxi politely requested beef, warmed up, and could she have a high-chair? and Midi yelled through for some carrot. Right NOW!

We played along for a bit and when I asked for payment, Maxi explained: “Oh, we haven’t any money; can we please pay you in jewellery?”

LOL! I settled for a high-5 each.

I’m going to miss my grown-up Maxi when she starts Primary School on Tuesday. I’d so many plans for this last week at home, but I didn’t anticipate being sick. Never mind, she seems delighted by seeing some meteors and playing cafes with her old mum, which absolutely makes my day.

Death and Alchemy

Our cat is very small, literally kitten-sized.  She is blindingly white, with luminous green eyes.  Her name is a very friendly ‘Daisy’.  However, she is Glaswegian and obviously thinks she is nails.

When Daisy was even smaller, her attempts to catch seagulls (or ‘eagles’ at Midi calls them: guess they sound pretty similar) or garden birds were farcical and a constant source of amusement.  Then in her second winter, it snowed.  Finally camouflaged, she discovered how to catch field mice and blue tits.  This continued into spring and beyond and now, aged 4, she regularly leaves me and The Boss presents of mice, voles, birds and baby rabbits under the garden seat.  Or sometimes in the veg patch (yuck).

On Tuesday I noticed the remains of a pied wagtail in Daisy’s favourite spot, in front of the chard, where nothing grows (Daisy’s white fur is impervious Teflon to the things I put on and in the ground to protect my baby seedlings in vain.  Bloody cat!).  When I went to pick it up, I found another, fresher wagtail corpse beside my little apple tree.  Cat, stop bringing Death to my garden!

I cleared up the bits then cleaned my rubber gloves with the spray bottle of Flash.  Except The Boss has been watering it down, again.  Now, I think he’s right to add a bit of water at the end of handwash bottles, for example, that are really thick.  But he adds so much water that they become virtually homeopathic.  Babe, Flash barely cuts through grime at full strength!  Leave it alone!

Then there’s Maxi, determined to make perfume.  The poor girl was on her 5th attempt.  She spent yesterday carefully collecting the very best petals in the garden: not wet, not too dry, not too fresh and not dried out.  She added just enough water, stirred carefully, put them somewhere safe to steep for a few hours.  When she went to check out progress, a sulky Midi got there first and tipped it over the kitchen floor (cue more squeals, wails and shouting.  And a profound lack of apologising).  The second attempt got spilled by the cat.  The third attempt was scuppered by the wind.  Mini Minx ruined the 4th attempt this morning because Maxi left the bowl within a millimetre of her sister’s grasp.

I sent Maxi outside with her precious bowl of petals, away from her sisters.  She’d asked for some pretty ribbon and a glass bottle with a stopper, but she got an empty plastic bottle of tonic water and a tea strainer.  I watched her shaking her pink-stained water furiously and holding it up to the sunlight, scrying its contents, before tentatively unscrewing the lid to have a wary sniff.  I think I’m lucky that I have a cold – she insists that it is her ‘Spring Perfume’ and that it makes her smell beautiful.  I just hope it doesn’t make her itch!

We all drove out to meet The Boss for lunch at his work, today.  It reminded me of 5 years ago, when I’d sometimes take a baby Maxi out to The Boss’s work for a picnic lunch, back when I was on maternity leave from work.  Those lunchtimes were the highlight of my week, then.  Today was similar – the girls were very excited about seeing Daddy during the day, and even his grumpy old face lit up over lunch.  They even behaved themselves in the wee canteen.

After The Boss went back to work, the girls had a play in the next-door playpark, then after some toilet shenanigans (thanks goodness we can all squash into a disabled loo, and thank goodness it was empty…) we went on a wee nature trail.  Midi had obviously forgiven me for being such a disciplinarian – she held my hand for the whole 45 minute bimble.  With Mini snuggled in a sling on my back, and Maxi skipping around, suddenly willingly independent, we had a really pleasant afternoon.  They actually enjoyed trying to spot thistles, daisies, butterflies and daft stuff.  We waved at a fork-lift driver filling up with LPG. They didn’t baulk at going into The Deep Dark Woods (maybe because we were higher than the houses when we climbed the steps). They even happily stuck to the path! I guess they got their Karma Reward because on the way back Maxi trod in some dog poo and the mess was too big to clear up at the roadside, so we abandoned going to the boring old supermarket. (Both feet. Brand new sandals, first time of wearing. Sandals, feet and ankles covered. I hate dogs. I really hate dogs).

Midi’s affection was explained by her crashing out in the car, then sleeping for 3 hours when we got home.  She even slept through Mini’s noisy demands for more blueberries: she empties her bowl, then bashes it on the table while shouting angrily till I fill it up again.  She thinks nothing of nicking her sisters’ or parents’ share and is never sated when it comes to sweet berries.  This is why I kept her in a sling when we went strawberry picking at Wester Hardmuir last fortnight…