Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Secret Life of Mild-mannered Lazarus Boopsie

My mom has been complaining because Hobbes and Potto have been gaining fame and fortune from my blog, while Lazarus Boopsie has been less prominently featured. Her creative input went something along these lines...

"You'd better do a blog on Lazarus since you did one on those other two."

Stage mothers! You notice she isn't demanding equal billing for Jean Lafitte!

No need for alarm, ma'am. Look up in the sky! It's a bird. It's a plane. No, it's the adventures of Super Boop to the rescue!

One dark night not many years ago, an innocent little kitten was walking the sinister streets of Gotham Westby. Hungry, alone, and nearly dead, he collapsed in a heap on the doorstep of a kind stranger. The kind stranger took him in and gave him to another kind stranger who took him in and gave him to another kind stranger who took him in and revived him. Perhaps due to the delay in the kind stranger relay, Lazarus Boopsie suffered permanent....shall we say....changes.

Mild-mannered Lazarus Boopsie lives a life of pastoral peace. No one suspects that when danger threatens, he is able to transform in an instant into his alter-ego, Super Boop. The evil of Gotham Westby quakes when confronted with Super Boop's amazing powers.

The nefarious Bottle dares not cross Super Boop's path. If one should be so foolish, it is easily vanquished with the Super Sonic Slurp.

No stranger to danger, Super Boop bites the Hand-That-Feeds-Him.

Perhaps because of his near-death experience, Super Boop is able to confuse his enemies by appearing lifeless at a moment's notice.

We don't talk about Super Boop's other super-power much, especially around Super Boop's future father....the ability to leave toxic puddles in dark corners.
But even Super Boop knows the truth of the old super-hero saying,

"Some days you get the evil....

Some days the evil gets you."

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Potto's First Vet Trip

Yesterday Young Potto got to go to the vet for the first time ever. He has a little, er, problem that needed looking at. Potto is going bald. It's only been in the last two weeks that it's been really "noticeable", but he was losing some whisps from the very beginning. We've bandied about thoughts of mange or some other dire condition, but his skin is smooth and healthy, with no signs of scales or redness. Very puzzling, and not a little amusing, though at poor Potto's expense.

Like all animals before him, Potto had deep suspicions of the vet's office. It didn't help that the back rooms were full of frantically yowling cats. The exam table was too smooth, too shiny, and too high up off the ground. Potto stayed in his carrier. That is, until the vet hauled him out and examined him. But thankfully, there were no temperatures taken!

The vet is sure it isn't ring worm, which leaves a couple of possible options. He's been on antibiotics, and that can sometimes cause a cat to lose hair. Or he had a fever and that caused his feline pattern baldness. Whatever it is, it's not contagious, and he does seem to be growing back some fine fuzz in the bald areas. Can't happen a moment too soon.

Noni is planning to keep Potto as a companion for her psycho kitten so she has been watching his transformation with interest. Long years ago our family had a turken named Nutsy, and for some reason, Noni is considering that as a name for Potto. I can't think why....

After leaving the vet, the kittens and I traveled on to Minot to pick Caleb up for his last visit before school starts. I haven't been back since they evacuated the school in June, so it was interesting to see how all the places that had been underwater were doing. People are really working hard to clean up after the flooding; there are trash heaps full of waterlogged insulation, drywall and carpet. There's a strong effort to re-build, but for quite a few people, it's an effort to rebuild so they can sell and move to higher ground!

In June...

In August...

In June...

In August...
On the way home, we got to see an interesting cloud formation, but then, Big Sky country is all about interesting cloud formations. It's also about summer bug swarms, so pardon the smears on the windshield!

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Adventures of Magnificent Hobbes

A sampling of a typical day's to-do list when you are a rocking fierce tiger.

#1. Bravely intimidate the fierce cat-killer Finley the Kid. I don't think we'll be having any more problems with THAT character!

#2. Whew! That was hard work. Time for a snack and more practice on eating my solid foods. Got to keep up my mad tiger skills!

#3. Nap time! Everyone knows rest is essential for maintaining that chic tiger glow. And we can't nap just anywhere....tigers must nap in stealthy places. No one will find me here...

#4. After naps, it's time for, well, never mind what it's time for. Does this litter box bring out the blue in my eyes?

#5. Make sure to try to eat Brother's swollen eye out. It looks like a titty and he doesn't need two eyes, anyway. (He really did this.) Apologize to brother when Mom makes me.

#6. It's been a long day. Better hit the snooze button again. Big Brother makes a nice blanket.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Where's Waldo?

Err, I mean , Potto.

Every bedtime begins with the same question, as regular as the call to prayer. "Where's Potto?" The other kittens will crash in some ordinary spot. Jean Lafitte usually sleeps right on the rug. Lazarus Boopsie will go to sleep wherever you are. Hobbes says, "What's sleep?"

But Potto, he marches to the beat of his own drummer. And his drummer never takes him to the same place twice. So we're always hunting for him when it's time to tuck the tuckered kittens to bed.

Tonight the babes were extra exhausted after a longer-than-usual play time and their first solid food ever.

Naturally, Potto was the star pupil of the bunch. He's gifted in the eating department! But where to find him now, resting up for another session with gourmet pate?

I looked everywhere, and couldn't find him at all. Then I remembered the last time I'd seen him. Busy making pesto (YUM!), I'd caught a glimpse of him exploring, but that was an hour ago! Would he still be there?

Well, yes, especially since I shut the cupboard door in the meantime. Pasta, anyone?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Cain and Abel

And it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.

Adam and Eve suffered a double grief that day in the death of one son and the horror of living with the knowledge that their other son was responsible. It makes life so much easier when we can view as an enemy the one responsible for the negative events in our lives. There are a few people that have impacted my family in very terrible ways, and while I work to forgive them, they live in a very convenient box in my mind. They are "not nice people," and I keep them at a nice comfy distance (sometimes half a continent!) It's the ones we think are safe that have the most power to hurt us.

This morning was the first day of school and I got up early to make pancakes for Laura. I always give the first pancake to the dogs because it's the test pancake, and that's how it's done. I tossed it out in the entryway for Finley and went back to my cooking. A moment later there was a small scuffle as Finley shooed one of the animals away from his food, but nothing alarming. Nothing that hasn't happened a thousand times before; I didn't even turn around.

A short time later Laura walked out of her room and screamed. Theodoreable was lying dead on the floor of the entryway surrounded by a puddle of blood. I went into "Mommy mode" and shooed her back into her room until I could get his body wrapped up and the blood cleaned off the floor. There were no external wounds, and I'd never even heard a single mew during the scuffle, so Finley didn't savage him. My best guess is that Finley had snapped at him and bitten where his leg was missing; there's no protection there for his internal organs. Then he'd simply lain on the floor and bled out while I cooked breakfast only a few feet away.

It would have been easier if I could have raged at the one that did this, or shrug my shoulders in fatalistic resignation if some predator had killed him. But Finley is my baby, and I love him completely and totally. He's seven years old and has never shown aggression to any cats, except normal protectiveness about his food. It was a tragic accident, and Finley knew that there was something very wrong. (He didn't even beg when I ate my breakfast later, that's how upset he was!)

It's a very sad thing, but even though it was horrible and tragic, I'm grateful that God's here to go through it with me. A part of me wishes I could have been there when he died, but I think it would have been dreadful to watch him slip away and be able to do nothing. I know he didn't suffer, and I just trust that there were angels with him to pet his head while he died.

A Dream Fulfilled

Ok, it wasn't a very big dream, and turned out to be more than a little swampy as dreams go, but last evening I achieved my summer goal of walking across the flooded place down the road from my house. Laura and I have played there a couple of times, but never went all the way across...until now.

Devon was with us, since the reason we were there was to do an installment of my Little House on the Prairie blog and he was "helping" out with that. He and Laura started in with much splashing and enthusiasm, especially Devon because he was covered in mud.

Soon the enthusiasm gave way to exclamations of horror and shrieks of disgust as we moved farther along the flooded roadway. But only from Laura; Devon thought it was wonderful (but then, he's part swamp monster anyway).Turns out this was one summer goal that would have been better done earlier in the summer before the aquatic greenery had quite such a chance to flourish! If you want to know what it was like, picture the scene from "Finding Nemo" where they get the fish tank dirty as part of their escape attempt. Then picture wading through it. At least ONE of us had water shoes....ME! Devon and Laura tried swimming to keep above the slime, but even that wasn't enough.

At long last, we reached the other side. Amid triumphant dances and victory leaps there loomed the uneasy realization that we had to do it all over again to get back to the van! Tempting as it was to find another route around, the shortest path between two points is a straight line, and back we went.

By this time Devon was shivering because the poor little string bean has 0% body fat, and nobody felt much like keeping on with the swampy frolicking. But we had fun doing it, and we can have the smug satisfaction of being one of the few, if not the only ones, who have. Not much glory goes with that accomplishment, but I'll take what distinction I can find!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Magnificent Hobbes

Tigers are mean.
Tigers are fierce.
Tigers have teeth
and claws that pierce.

Tigers are great,
they can't be beat.
If I was a tiger,
that would be neat.

Tigers are nimble
and light on their toes,
my respect for tigers
continually grows.

Tigers are perfect,
the e-pit-o-me
of good looks and grace
and quiet dignity.

Tigers are great!
They're the toast of the town.
Life's always better
when a tiger's around!

Bill Waterson, Calvin and Hobbes

We have tentatively named our fierce beast orange tabby. We'll try it out for a few days and see if it fits him, but his name is "Hobbes" after the tiger in the Calvin and Hobbes comic strip. They share the same fearless zest for life and thirst for adventure.

Today the pastor came to visit, and Hobbes, never one to be intimidated by positions of respect, decided to climb the pant leg of his pin-stripe suit. On the inside. Thankfully, our pastor exhibits Christian grace and also happens to like cats (at least when he's visiting his parishioners!)

Potpourri of Pages: Summer Reading List

OK, maybe I should call it "Fall Reading List" since it is closer to fall than summer, but, hey, it's still August people. Read fast.

You may notice as you go down the list that I tend to favor light juvenile historical fiction. Nothing wrong with that! I like a book that informs me, but also is easy to read while stressed or distracted. All of the books are interesting and give good views into everyday life during the time period they are set in. So go ahead, take a break from your latest thriller, romance, or political manifesto. Step into another time and place and see life through someone else's eyes. In doing so, you'll learn more about your own life.

If you love Louisa May Alcott, then you will enjoy this book. I read several biographies of her as a child, but none came close to revealing the true nuttiness of her father's grandiose ideas. "Fruitlands" was aptly named! The book is a fictionalized account of their time in Fruitlands, framed as Louisa's secret diary, but it is all based on the historical records we still have of their great experiment. What gets me is how very much Louisa loved and admired her father even though he was not a very---practical---person. To put it mildly. The other thing that struck me is how incredible it is that someone could write such down-to-earth stories when she was raised in the 1800's equivalent of a hippie commune.

This book was amazing. I can't believe that Elaine Goodale Eastman's story has never been made into a movie! (All you aspiring screen writers out there, take note!) She was a sheltered New Englander who journeyed to the Dakotas when the Plains Indians were barely less dangerous. She worked as a teacher on the reservation, traveled alone all over her territory as a single woman, helped treat the wounded after the Wounded Knee Massacre, and eventually married a gorgeous Indian doctor. And as you can see from the cover, she was beautiful herself!

It was interesting to read this from a Christian perspective. She worked for the government, but only so she could be a missionary to the Native Americans. Even though she was somewhat a product of her times and her language can be less than politically correct, she still showed so much understanding and respect to all of the Native Americans as a people. It really highlighted for me what God would have liked to see happen with the Native Americans, instead of the mess the reservation system immediately became.

(In the interest of full disclosure, they did divorce later in life as the stress of such an early inter-racial marriage took its toll, but it's still a great story. Plus the book ends long before there were any marital troubles)

This is a fun book to read "just because". It tells the story of Ginny who must travel to England to stay with her father when her mother becomes very ill. Only her father is an archeologist, and he's spending a year in a Bronze Age living history experiment. The story is decent, but it's setting that really makes the book fly. That probably sounds kind of boring, but it really isn't. The concept is based on a mini-series the British did in the 70's recording an experiment of the same type; during the year they were out there, there was a terrible blizzard in Britain. Power was out and people everywhere were freezing in their little houses. But not in Bronze Age land. They had wood, food, shelter, and didn't even know there was a problem until days later when someone could fight their way in to them.

These two books make good companions. They both cover the Dust Bowl era, but one is set in Oklahoma/ California, and one is set exclusively in California.

Both of them deal with the terrible prejudice shown to Dust Bowl refugees by their own countrymen. It was a time of crisis and people were fearful; fearful people are never at their wisest or most compassionate. It's especially pertinent to me in my modern setting, since I am inadvertently part of an on-going mass migration to North Dakota. Nobody here is as mean as those nasty old Californians back in the day, but I did have someone ask me once, "Why do you people come here, anyway?" Even though they are not the same people, it is also interesting how back then it was California with all the jobs and an unfriendly spirit, and now it's the Californians who travel about the country, hat in hand, seeking shelter and work. Truly, what goes around, comes around.

And for your spiritual enrichment, may I recommend this book. It's a book/workbook, and I've been going through it lately (for some reason!). It's been a big blessing, and I can suggest it to any parent any time for any situation with no reservations.

Friday, August 19, 2011

X-treme Crazy Cat Lady

(Do NOT try this at home! I'm a PROFESSIONAL.)

Two weeks ago tomorrow I got a call from my parents' neighbors. The mama cat that Laura and I had seen a few days before had left a baby on their doorstep. A short time later, they found another one wandering around in their shed. The neighbor was just getting over an illness and didn't feel up to feeding them. Would I help?

A whole raft of people headed over there to check out the situation. We found a grey and white kitten and a very light and sick tabby (the one the mother had brought for help). I went to search the shed to see if I could find any more. Oh, just four more. That's all. And all of them, but one, emaciated and clearly not getting enough milk. The one that wasn't emaciated had a terrible eye infection and mild cold and would need medication.

The mama-cat is a wild cat that gives them her kittens every year, but this year she had two litters, and this litter was twice as big as she normally has. Clearly, she wasn't going to be able to keep these guys fed, but they couldn't be left with her and have their food supplemented because she would hide them from us. I assumed care for five, but one we gave back to the mom, figuring if she'd kept 6 from dying, she could keep one alive.

I took them home for their first proper feeding (they'd had a snack at the neighbors'). They were soooooooo hungry! One of them, the small, cream one, was so weak from starvation he could barely eat. But it was the orange tabby that had me worried. Full of pep when Laura and I had seen him a few days before, he now had a raging lung infection and could barely breathe, though all the time he kept staring around with his big eyes.

My two sickies

Since then, they have traveled pretty much everywhere with me. They went down to Glendive on the mini-mission trip, and were very popular, especially with the kids. One of the babies died down there, but not one of the sick ones. I think he inhaled some milk and got pneumonia, because he went from healthy to dying, with no sick in between. The Siamese, the only girl, was given to a lady who really wanted her for her girls and had raised kittens before. So I came back with only three.

Soon, the cream starvation kitten gained back enough strength to eat like a pig. No longer worried about starvation, I started worrying about things like stomachs bursting and such. The orange baby was almost well in one week, and once he could breathe enough to eat, boy did he eat. He still is frantic at mealtimes and chases after the bottle with wild snuffling noises as if he were a truffle-sniffing pig. Take off the truffle-sniffing and you just about have it!

But he has the heart of a lion. He hasn't figured out that he's small yet, one of the ittiest, bittiest little lumps of sweetness you could ever find. Sweetness with teeth, though! He loves to explore, play with the big kittens, try to jump out of his box, and climb after his bottle. This from a kitten that couldn't even hold his head up 1-1/2 weeks ago.

Exploring under my bed. He's not scared by any dustbunnies!
Then, there's Potto. He may get a more refined name later, but right now he is named for his extreme resemblance to the animal by the same name. He was one of the healthiest, most well developed of the kittens, but had a terrible eye infection. His eyes weren't even open yet, and when they did open, they looked like globs of pus, all white and no eyeball. I was pretty sure he'd be blind. But, no, his eyes are fine now, and even though he was always healthy besides that, he continues to eat as though he'd been starved his whole life. After a feeding, his belly brushes the ground; he needs to get busy and grow longer legs!

The Starved Cream Puff doesn't have a name yet, and not too much of a personality besides hungry. He does have a permanently aggrieved expression due to his still-in-recovery eye infection. He seems to be a little shy, but is coming out of his shell more each day.

Just this Tuesday, we got another call from the neighbors. The mama cat had brought her other baby to the porch. Obviously, she didn't have enough milk for him, either, and he was nearly dead. I was at work, so the initial triage was done by my mom, Noni, and Damon. Through diligent efforts they managed to warm him and revive him, until by the time I got home, he was trying to get out of his box to go find more food. My mom named him Lazarus. I added the Boopsie for cuteness.

He continues to make great strides in his recovery. Soon I expect him to look a lot like his big brother, Potto. He wanders around, plays with stuff, and then naps soundly. After he eats, of course. In fact, today I tried all of them on some thickened milk from a saucer. Did not go so well. They needed an emergency visit from Big Brother Theo, their self-appointed cleaning crew. Check him out at work in the back of this photo.....

And that, my children, is how I officially reached status of X-treme Crazy Cat Lady. Today Laura was telling someone we had TEN CATS. I guffawed. Laura is much given to exaggeration and I am frequently correcting her.

"Not so, we only have (counts busily on fingers).....nine......cats." Smugness evaporates. But I'm not keeping all of them! I'm not! Really!