Moxie Mom On Life and Kids

MOXIE MOM on Life & Kids

School Start Time

Ty and I are still getting used to our district’s new 9:30am start time for the elementary schools. (Leah goes off to school at the same time she did last year, at 7:25, and Curt is gone to work by 6:30, so it’s just us two kicking around.) I knew it would be strange to go from 9:00 to 9:30, but as a work-from-home parent I figured I’d make it work. And we are making it work because we have to, but what I didn’t anticipate is how difficult it is for kids.

Mine would happily continue in summer mode, sleeping until 8:30 if I let him, but what I learned last week, the first week of school, was summer mode isn’t good for the school brain. Letting him sleep only set us up for a groggy morning and, believe it or not, a mad rush out the door. Having too much time can lead to running late, as adults know.

This week, I’m getting Ty up at 7:45. The problem is he’s ready by 8:30 and still has half an hour to kill before walking out the door. Every parent I know is in the same position. In fact, other kids are ready for school by 8:00 and anxious to head out the door. They can’t. Those who walk to school have to wait another hour. I’ve nixed morning movies and video games (but how many kids are zoning on screens? Too many, I’ll wager), and Ty is settling into a reading routine to get his daily reading done in the mornings rather than at bedtime. It works. But I’d rather send him to school while he’s still fresh.

Thankfully, Ty will be a middle schooler next year and his start time will be much earlier. After this year, which I’ve already dubbed The Year of the Big Sleep, he is going to be in a world of hurt, but I suspect it will do him good. Except, hmm, my kids will be getting ready for school at the same time again after a three-year hiatus. I guess I should enjoy what I’ve got.


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New Family Member

We added a new member to our family a couple weeks ago. She’s about 10 weeks old and furry, with the black and white markings of a tuxedo. Her name is Maggie.

She came from my sister’s house in Sequim. They had rescued 5 kittens from a feral barn mama on their property, and—naturally—the kittens were just the right age to go to new homes. After three days of hanging out with kittens (we were there for a long weekend), how can you say no?

I sort of had this (misguided) idea Maggie might befriend Milo and maybe hang out with him and maybe, just maybe, shut up his infernal meowing (for some reason I thought he might quiet down once he grew up, but he’s as loud and needy as when he was a kitten, which was sort of cute back then but now it just seems kind of pathetic. I mean, really, hasn’t he heard about cats being independent?). In contrast, Maggie is next to silent. The younger sister who plays in the shadow of the older sib.

Well. Milo still meows. And now he’s added rough play to his agenda. Actually, we’re not sure it’s play. For some reason, early morning seems to bring out the feistiest behavior, with Maggie cowering and hissing and Milo launching at her with bared teeth. He’s a cat now, three times her size, and to watch him chase her like prey is disconcerting.

“She just wants to play,” Leah worries, “and he’s so mean to her.”

I point surreptitiously at Ty and say, “Not the same thing?” She gets my reference and even smiles.

Granted, Maggie does her share of irritating Milo, like any younger sib. If only she would stop, her life might be less precarious—at least in the morning. She particularly loves to attack his irritated, twitching tail, a sure way to earn a clobber, and rarely is she content to lounge. She’s a kitten, after all. Play’s the thing.

At times, though, while she’s playing with an errant pipe cleaner or a piece of paper, Milo will sit and watch tolerantly, once in a while joining in. When they’re ready to call it quits, they will sleep together on the couch—not curled up together but at least in the same vicinity. We have hope. We keep thinking that once she gets bigger and can hold her own, he’ll back off, befriend her for real.

I wonder if that’s what will happen with my kids. Once Ty is taller, a teenager in his own right, will Leah see him as an ally and friend rather than an irritating little brother?

She does seem to be catching on to the unfairness of a power differential. I can’t tell if I’m imagining it, but since we’ve gotten Maggie, Leah seems slightly more inclusive of Ty. Is she sympathetic? I don’t know. Maybe not. What I do know is nobody around here wants to be compared to Milo.

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Life with a Kitten

We have a new kitten in our house, just arrived three days ago, a beautiful little gray tabby with a little round face. In fact, he’s sitting in my lap as I type this (I would have included a photo but my camera is on the fritz). We haven’t had a kitten around for 15 years, since our beloved late Leon was a kitten, and I have forgotten how much care and attention they require. Rather like a human infant.

This little guy, whom the kids have christened Milo, loves attention. He’s very sociable and loves to be held. A lot. Luckily, you can’t help sweeping him up into your arms just to hear him purr and feel him knead your sweater, but in the last day or so, I’ve been hearing chitchat among family members about how we’re maybe spoiling him with too much attention.

“He’s a baby,” I find myself saying. Am I the only mother here? “We’re not spoiling him. He needs our attention while he adjusts to life in our house.” Shades of Dr. Sears. (I still recall the conversations about why we needed to move Leah into her own room when she was three days old.)

But come Monday morning, when everyone had gone off to work and school, I had to get some work done. Right. That old adage of working with your baby nearby doesn’t work with a kitten either. Milo careened around the house meowing at the top of his lungs until I put him on my lap to work. He tried to climb on my keyboard, up around the computer, down around my feet, and finally, meowing the whole time, he somehow ended up in the desk file drawer. Apparently it has a back entrance I knew nothing about. I didn’t realize he was in the drawer until I opened it to find him squashed in with the various desk detritus—envelopes and such.

Okay, tough love here, buddy. If he were my human baby, I would have had to stop work altogether, something I used to do all the time when my kids were infants. But the beauty of a kitten? I shut him in the bathroom with his food and litter box, where he promptly went quiet. The conservative parent experts would have been proud.

The best part about a feline baby? Milo came toilet trained and hasn’t had an accident yet. If only it were so easy with all babies…

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Last Night’s Fire

I have been processing the news of Whatcom Middle School, my daughter’s school, all morning, since about 6:20am when Curt woke me to tell me the news.

“What?” My mind felt so fuzzy.

Undoubtedly, you’ve heard by now the school was ravaged by fire. Our household, along with hundreds of others, is spinning. After getting Ty out the door to elementary school—how weird is that to send one out the door but not the other—Leah and I decided to go get breakfast at the Bagelry. Sounds odd, maybe, but I thought it would be okay.

I was doing fine holding it together until we were eating our eggs and someone leaned over from the neighboring table to say, “Are you a Whatcom Middle School family? I’m so sorry for your loss.”

And then it really sank in, my throat closed up, and my eyes filled with tears. It is a loss, and to have an unknown community member acknowledge it out loud brought it all home. There are 580 kids and their teachers and staff and principal without a school.

Teachers have lost years of lesson plans, materials, and resources. Class schedules, upcoming sports, current sports, a daily routine—it’s all gone for the foreseeable future, at least as Whatcom Middle School. All this after dealing with the disruption of the seismic retrofit since last January, truly no picnic, and nearly complete at last.

We’re all waiting to hear how everyone will be accommodated.

Leah and I drove past the school on the way home. Some of the upper windows are blown out, the window shades contorted and bent, the sky visible through those windows where the roof caved in, the top of the building blackened along the roof line. The water damage is exensive, though it’s invisible from the street. From one day to the next, we’ve gone from a vibrant, functioning building to a shell.

You can catch the latest here at the Herald if you haven’t already. Here are the gallery photos.

And thanks for sending your good thoughts out to everyone affected.


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Good-bye, Leon

We are feeling bereft around here because we’re missing our kitty pal of the last 15 years. Leon died yesterday morning before breakfast in a painful-to-watch passing to the greater beyond. Curt is on a climbing trip so he doesn’t even know yet, but the rest of us are feeling a little wrung out after an emotional weekend. Now that it’s all over and the grave has been dug and the gravestone placed, the kids are moving on faster than I am. It wasn’t easy being vet, mortician, and gravedigger all in one.Leon's grave

Here’s what I keep noticing: We don’t need to fill Leon’s bowl anymore or worry that he’s not eating enough. I don’t have to close the basement door to keep him from sneaking into the crawl space to do his business. The cat door no longer whispers open. Nobody follows me into the bathroom to wait for me to turn on the sink tap (Leon’s favorite source of water). We have nobody to rub against our legs. There’s no purring in the house. Our lives feel a little empty.

We had known for some time Leon was declining, but I never expected the final days to arrive so soon—somehow I had pictured later this fall. But on Saturday afternoon I found Leon in the yard looking dazed, and I bought him into the kitchen to get a look at him. He immediately went out the back door onto the stoop and then stumbled and turned back to the door, vague and unsure of himself. His back legs didn’t work right. He issued a tiny silent meow, and then another, gazing toward me but not really seeing. In that moment I knew he was dying.

I brought him inside and lay him on a towel on the kitchen floor. A few minutes later, Ty arrived home from a friend’s house and we studied Leon together. “I don’t think he’s doing well,” I said. I wasn’t ready to say the D word out loud just yet.

“Mommy, I think he’s dying,” Ty replied. And then I started to cry because, of course, he was right, only I didn’t expect him to come to it so quickly. Ty, less emotional than I, set about conducting response tests, touching Leon, talking to him, waving his hand in front of his eyes. We discovered Leon didn’t blink. He stared straight ahead and only turned his face to us if we spoke to him. We looked up symptoms of dying cats on the Internet: disorientation, reluctance to eat or drink, breathing changes, loss of vision, and restlessness. Leon fit the profile.

Leah was at a friend’s house until late evening, so Ty and I were on our own for dinner. That’s when the emotion hit him, and he started to cry, large silent tears rolling down his cheeks as he poked listlessly at his dinner. We gave up on eating and went to sit with Leon. We talked about pets and the cycle of life and how it’s his time and how we really don’t want him to linger in pain.

I told Leah on the way home from her friend’s house. She walked into the house and took one look at Leon, who had crawled into a corner, and burst into loud wracking sobs. The last time a cat died in our house, Leah was three and doesn’t recall. (And our cat was staying at my parents’ house, where it was quieter, so I didn’t actually witness anything.)

Burying Leon on Sunday morning wasn’t easy, but it gave us a sense of purpose. At last, here was something we could do and do well. Leah painted a stone with his name in bright yellow. We planted orange mums to honor his marmalade-colored fur. Leah’s long-time friend and animal lover brought a vase of red dahlias and a bag of chocolate chip cookies for comfort.

Leon is well-remembered and missed, just as a good friend should be.


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