Friday, July 30, 2010

Now I have cats

Last week I went and adopted two cats, because what I really, really needed were two more creatures depending on me for their welfare and nourishment.

The acquisition of these cats was the result of a skillfully executed emotional blackmail campaign on the part of my children. It started with our visit to Cleveland, and Henry's deep infatuation with Roy, my cousin's boxer. "I love Roy," Henry sighed, over and over again. "Can we get a dog like Roy?"

"That's so sweet!" I said. "And NO." We had this experience adopting a dog about three years ago, also immediately after returning from a vacation. The dog, despite a misleading show in the socialization yard at the SPCA, did not like small children. She did, however, enjoy rolling in dog and cat feces. Frequently. She was also incontinent, literally leaking pee around the house as she walked. The dog was not, to put it politely, a good fit for our family.

But I saw how much Henry loved Roy, and I recognized that however cheerfully I may talk them up, our goldfish will never fill that fuzzy, cuddly place in his heart. So the idea of cats came about as a compromise. Furry and nuzzly, but not so needy. That was my thinking.

They are lovely cats. Four-year-old siblings (brother and sister) who were surrendered because their owners lost a job and had to move to a no-cat location. They are friendly and pretty and have yet to swat or bite, even in the face of Henry and Amelia's aggressive attempts at affection.

We are still in the "adjustment period," which, according to the SPCA literature, can last from one week to several months. Our adjustment period involves a great deal of plaintive howling and knocking things off tables in the very small hours of the morning. It was irritating the first night, infuriating the second night, and by the third night I was sobbing and calling them "monstrous pieces of sh*t." (Have I mentioned that I have some mood issues related to lack of sleep?) Now I lock them in the downstairs bathroom when the howling begins, and we are all happier as a result.

Oh, and their names are Jessie and Woody. Like from Toy Story. I had some wry, clever names lined up for them, references that would have made me smile when I called them, and maybe have helped endear these quadrupeds to me. But apparently, my kids were the last things in my house I got to name.

Friday, July 23, 2010


We have just returned from our two-week sojourn to Cleveland and New Jersey. I know what you're thinking--the glamour, the excitement. Please, your jealousy is unbecoming.

But here's the thing with small children: it doesn't matter where you take them. The Great Lakes Science Center is just as interesting to them as the Louvre. More interesting, even. Besides, I haven't seen my Cleveland relatives since my wedding, 6 years ago, when I was too anxious and emaciated to talk to anyone.

I'll spare you the day-by-day details of the vacation. Instead, here are a few thoughts:

1. Cross-country travel with small children is the most effective way to dispel the fear that they're growing up too fast. I mean, I love these little babies, but I will love them just as much when I can read a book on the airplane without having to repeatedly apologize to the flight attendant for false alarms with the call button.

2. The good citizens of Cleveland are seriously upset over LeBron James going to Miami. So much so that the evening news identified him only as "The Traitor" on the onscreen tag.

3. I have more cousins than I realized who were secretly given up for adoption decades ago. It's not a closet of skeletons with that family, it's a freaking clown car.

4. The guards at the American Museum of Natural History know that if you are visiting with children under 5, you're looking for "Gum Gum," the Easter Island head in Night at the Museum. They will approach you and offer directions to Gum Gum without even asking if that's what you want to see.

5. The Morris/Essex line of the NJ Transit does not run from Penn Station after midnight, at least not from the NJ Transit area I was waiting in, even though the schedules all say it does, and there are no NJ Transit employees there at that hour. Oh, and a cab from Penn Station to Summit, NJ, will run you about $150 with tip. FYI.

6. We spent more than $200 for our day in NYC visiting the Museum of Natural History (not the same day as the $150 cab ride, clearly). We spent $10 the next day getting iced coffee and Munchkins at the Dunkin' Donuts and hanging around a New Providence playground. Our kids were just as happy, proving my original point that it doesn't matter where you take small children.

One more thing I've been chewing on these past couple of weeks. My cousin Kathleen pointed out that although my blog makes it seem as though I am constantly overwhelmed with parenting, I am not a bad parent in person. She even said I have a "calming effect" on my kids, which she would probably take back if she had witnessed the argument between Amelia and I this morning about the fact that her new battery-operated Hello Kitty toothbrush IS NOT A TOY.

But Kathleen is right. I may be feeling my way through the dark with this parenting stuff, but I'm not doing such a bad job. (Cut to 15 years later, where I sit sobbing and apologizing during the family sessions with my kids' therapist, finally knowing for certain that I was so, so wrong about the toothbrush.)