...my child sold your honor student the answers to the test...

Saturday, December 29, 2012

A Family Addition

Xmas day was a magical day this year. It's always a magical time of year, but for 2012, it was even more so. If I were religious, I would say God had a hand in it. But instead I will just say that as the events of the day unfolded, it felt like it was meant to be.

After Xavier lost his dog, Grunther, in a tragic way, the boy was devastated. While Grunther lived at my mom's house, we still visited him often and he was a part of the family. It affected us all and left a pall around the house for weeks. The event made J and I think about Xavier, how much he has matured, and how in the next few months his life will alter as he joins the ranks of middle school. A terrifying thought on its own, but even more terrifying as the schools change constantly here, and its hard enough for Xavier to make friends. We thought long and hard and ultimately made the decision that he needed a companion, a constant friend in the midst of future chaos. Dogs are too much work for us as a family of five, so we nixed that off our list, But cats... ahh cats. They are self sufficient, easier to care for, and if you find the right one, quite affectionate. After a lot of discussions and hashing out the details on how we would work this, J and I decided that Xaviers big gift year would be for him to choose a kitten.

Well thoughts are well and good, but when it comes down to the actual event, it became more difficult than I expected. For a month before the holiday I researched constantly at adoption centers, stores, and craigslist, looking for a kitten. You would think they would be everywhere, but no. There were zero kittens in our county. Oh sure, there were 8 month old kittens. There were one year old cats. But no little kittens that could more easily adapt to a crazy household like ours. And I was adamant that we found the right one. I wouldn't settle for less.

Xmas morning came along and still no signs of kittens. Santa left Xavier all of the basics for kitten care with a note that said after that day we parental units would help him search for his new BFF. The look of awe and joy on his face is indescribable. But I worried, knowing there was no BFF out there at the time.

Usually we stay at home Xmas day and the grandparents come down to visit. But this year, my brother Brad was home from deployment, and we trekked up to his house to spend the holiday with family. While there, I mentioned the difficulty in searching for a kitten. Brad mentioned that there was a local website like craigslist, but better, and because of the amount of marines coming and going at all times, there were usually plenty of animals looking for a good home. So we popped online to look, And where in my area of the state there were no kittens to be found, in Brads area there were at least 30 seeking family.

We found a couple of promising kittens, and despite it being a holiday I took a chance and texted two people: one about a black and white tuxedo male, and another that had no photo, but advertised a gray and white female kitten. Within two minutes of texting, my phone rang. It was the owner of the female kitten.

The story goes that his family rescued a cat and then found out she was pregnant. She had five kittens. They kept two, found two others good homes, but had one more who needed a family. He would have kept her himself but they also had kids and a dog and it was too much. At 9.5 weeks, she was already litter trained, sweet as could be, great with kids and dogs, and just what we were looking for from the sound of it. Even though it was a holiday, he was willing for us to meet up as we were close by. So Brad, Xavier, and I popped into the van and headed out.

She was beautiful! Gray mask blending with white, four white socks, and dainty. The man took her out of the carrier to hand to me and she went limp, purring in my arms. The three of us immediately fell in love. And then.... she jumped.

Out of my arms she took off from 0-60 in a nanosecond, racing down a field. Brad, who was just recovering from injuries of his own, took off without a thought, racing after her. The rest of us stood there in utter shock, my heart dropping as I thought there was no way in hell he could catch her she was so damn fast. But luck was on our side as I watched both the kitten and Brad drop out of sight. There was a creek that neither of them noticed. Both fell in. While Brad was able to gain his footing, the kitten stopped dead in the water. He quickly threw his shirt over her and lunged, coming back up with a bedraggled and confused kitten.

After a lot of nervous laughter, and making sure she got into and STAYED into the box we brought, we gave our thanks for the amazing gift and went back to Brads house. The kitten hid for an hour under the couch, but soon enough was stalking around, sniffing things, and eventually allowing us to pet her. By the time we left for home, she was happily snuggled into Xavier's arms, purring away contentedly.

I've been a cat owner for most of my life. I know (and warned Xavier) that it can take days for cats to adjust and feel comfortable in their new surroundings. When J and I moved to Templeton, our two cats hid in the guest bedroom, under the covers for three days before they joined us. So we were in total awe when this tiny kitten sauntered into the house, checked the place out, and made herself cozy on the couch like she lived there her whole life.  Not only that, but by morning, she was already playing with Ashe and Soren, hiding under the Xmas tree and pouncing on them as they ran by laughing hysterically. She found her way to the TV and sits there, avidly watching the boys play video games, helping out in her own way by pawing the screen on where to go. And every night, Xavier takes her upstairs to his room when he goes to bed. Each time I have gone in to check on them, he would be passed out with her cuddled right up to him, purring away.

In honor of J's favorite cat commercial, the one that makes him giggle each time it plays, we named her Bax, a shortened version of Baxter. And it fits her purrfectly. She fits us purrfectly and has already become a solid part of our family. We all fawn over her. We laugh as she attacks her scratching post. We smile as we see her perched half way up the tree, watching the boys play. We listen for the jingle of the bell on her collar and look up eagerly as she waltzes into the room. And while we have dinner, she weaves her tiny body around the legs of the chairs, meowing at us, reminding us not to forget her for a moment. Like we could ever do that. Little lady, you have each of us wrapped around your little tail.

Welcome to the family, Bax. We already love you to the moon and back.

Friday, December 21, 2012

My 2012 Photo Album

Around this time every year, once the kids are passed out and I've placed a glass of wine beside me, I sit down at my computer, go through the past twelve months of photos and videos I have taken of the boys, and picked out my favorites. Then I Google for songs about kids growing up that don't include an abused home or a crappy parent, and pick one that I actually like or seems relevant. Once I have my chosen materials, I create my version of our annual photo album. I learned long ago that I suck at scrap booking, but I do love to make music videos. And this way, the boys will always be able to see their yearly album no matter where they are in the world.

This years music video was a collective work of art. Months ago J made me listen to his new favorite song, "I Have The Right" by Sonota Arctica. It's a sad, yet beautiful song of a man singing about his childhood with a neglectful parent, and claiming how children have the right to be loved, cherished, heard, and embraced. We really believed in the message of the song, but were not going to use it because the verses were very anti composers parent. Fortunately J had an idea, and with a little tinkering, was able to edit the song seamlessly.

Looking back on these photos and videos each year always reminds me of how much our family has grown. Like a flower, if you watch it all of the time, you may see tiny changes here and there, but when you watch it in time elapse it amazes you how fast such a tiny seed can change into its full glory. Creating and watching these videos is like the same thing to me.  This time last year, Soren was only talking in Sorenese. Today, he's a nonstop chatterbox and fully understandable to everyone, not just close friends. Ashe has embraced school and is living large in kindergarten. He can now say his L perfectly, something he couldn't do a year ago. Xavier has grown up into an amazing young person that I am honored to know. He has matured so much in the past six months, and I can glimpse more often than not, the young man he will become. In only half a year, a blink of an eye, he will enter Junior High, something I do not think I am nearly ready for. But he is.

So without further ado, here is my annual scrapbook for the year 2012 of the boys. I hope that your year was as amazing as ours has been.

Monday, December 17, 2012


A few weeks ago our family dealt with a loss that devastated the boys, most especially Xavier. Our pug, Grunther, passed away unexpectedly and tragically, after being attacked by my brothers dog. Grunther was Xavier's dog, which we got him when he was two and he asked for a little brother. They were the best of buddies for years, until one fateful day, after being sick, Grunther bit baby Ashe on the cheek. I have a no bite rule in the house, and we were forced to remove him from our home for the safety of the baby (despite it being a one time deal and Grunther had been an amazing dog prior I wasn't taking chances), but my mom offered to take him in so that the kids could still see him when we went to visit.

Grunther lived a long and happy life, and was cherished by the boys and us adults. His death seemed like major karma in how he went, as my brothers dog is also sweet and never bit anyone until that one day.

They day I found out, I waited in dread for the school bus to drop Xavier off because I know he was going to take the news hard. And he did. We spent hours in his room as I held him while he sobbed until he passed out exhausted. It took him weeks to recover back to his normal happy self, and even now, a month later, a shadow of mourning will cross his face, and he will grow pensive as he remembers his faithful puppy.

Which got me thinking:

With ADHD, Xavier sometimes has a hard time developing lasting friendships outside of the gaming world. He has a couple of friends, one who has been his best friend for three years, but even then, they rarely hang out outside of school. Maybe it's due to his friends having crazy tiger mom schedules where they are doing seven different activities a week. Maybe not. I don't know. But I do know that for a kid like Xavier, he needs someone (aside from us family members) who will always be there for him and love him unconditionally. And with middle school right around the corner, where kids can be assholes to the nth degree, and I worry about him fitting in, that need will be even more evident.

While J and I are not dog people, we talked about these issues and agreed that Xavier would really benefit from some sort of relationship with a pet. We just needed time to think. So we did.

With Christmas around the corner, the boys are excited about Santa (yes, my kids still strongly believe and I intend to keep it that way for as long as possible). Ashe and Soren have teamed up together to ask Santa for a Wii U. Xavier has asked for a $300 nerf gun, which I promptly told him that even Santa can't always work those kind of miracles. Fortunately we have taught our kids that Santa does not always bring you what you ask for. He gives each gift great thought before giving the "perfect" gift for each child.

And with that in mind, "Santa" has finally figured out the perfect gift for Xavier. J and I have decided that, under the tree will be a kitty carrier with a stuffed kitten and a note, explaining that Santa and parental units have been in touch, and we all agreed that it is time for Xavier to find a companion, a kitten, to love and cherish and take care of. We'll spend the following week searching stores, shelters, etc, and let Xavier choose.

While we mourn the loss and love of our Grunther, I think this will be a way for Xavier's heart to begin to heal, while also giving him a companion that is not mom and dad, whom he can spill his heart to without reservation in the years to come.

I think this will be a wonderful Christmas for the boys. And for us.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Happy Sixth, Ashe!

In less than one hour, six years ago, my second child Ashe, came racing into this world. And when I say racing, I'm not dicking around or using hyperbole. That kid wanted to join the world so bad that he was almost born in the car in a five minute drive from home to the hospital. Because of him, I decided that Soren would be home birthed. I did not fancy the idea of keeping a newborns head warm with a McDonald's cup or try to tie off the umbilical cord with a shoe string.

Fast forward to now and my boy is still going fast. We've yet to establish into his brain what a "normal" voice volume is. Everything he says is at volume 11. On the flip side, he is racing through school, feasting on all of the knowledge his teacher can throw at him. He is acing math and reading. After years of worrying about his inability to produce the sounds L and R, he is enunciating them clearly, a feat of which I am so proud for him. And as a gamer family, he is coming into his own and kicking arse on any game you put into his hands.

Ashe has grown up so much over the past year. While he is still a child that has nightmares about missing Lego's (like last night), or cries uncontrollably when he gets a skinned knee, he has blossomed so much into an amazing youth full of life, personality, and love of all things. I am so excited to see what he jumps into over the next year. I just hope that this year he will learn what an indoor voice is.
Happy birthday love!