Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Hug Jesus

One of the greatest pleasures (and honors) of my life is having the opportunity to introduce and represent Jesus to my kids. Next to loving the Lord my God with all my heart and all my soul and all my mind, (oh, and being a help mate to my spousal unit) this is my highest calling. And I want to do it well.

I'm sure all parents believe their kid is gifted. And spiritually speaking, all kids ARE gifted. I'm not entirely sure what gift(s) Jeffrey has, but God is already doing something awesome in him. I could recite story after story, but I'll just give a quick snippet from last night.

About an hour before bed, Jeffrey decided he wanted to watch Veggie Tales' Easter Carrol. (Gotta love singing vegetables!) There is this part in the movie when the little angel was singing about the story of Easter. The visual was basically stained glass windows in a church, where they depict the birth, life and death of Jesus - and finally the Resurrection. The first window that showed a grown Jesus, Jeffrey ran up to the TV screen, put his hand over him and said, "Jesus!" It's neat that he even knows the various illustrations of Jesus.

Then, we read his Toddler Bible. He points to Noah and calls all the animals by name... When we get to the story of David and Goliath, he points to David and says, "Kick butt...." (Oops... That just came out one day when I told him that David kicked Goliath's butt. It stuck. I hope that doesn't get in him in trouble in Sunday School one day.) And when we get to the baby Jesus and all the pictures of Jesus thereafter, Jeffrey points and says, "Jesus" to each. So cute.

By this time, it was time to get tucked in and say our prayers. I got him all snuggled and cozy, and asked if I could pray for him. (I don't ever want to assume that this is ok.) He, of course, said, "Uh-huh!" (He loves to be prayed for. He could be totally hyper, but as soon as we begin to pray, he settles right down, looks deeply into our eyes and listens intently.) So, I prayed... some variation of the same prayer I pray every night, which ended, "Amen!" And Jeffrey repeats, "Amen!"

And then, out of nowhere, he said, "Talk, Jesus?" He was asking if he could talk to Jesus.
I replied, "Do you want to talk to Jesus?"
Jeffrey answered, "Uh-huh!"
I asked him, "Is Jesus here?"
He said, "Uh-huh!"
I told him, "Honey, Jesus loves it when you talk to Him. You can talk to Jesus any time you want."
Then he stretched his arms out to each side and said, "Hug, Jesus?"
I asked, "Do you want to hug Jesus?"
He replied, "Uh-huh!"
I told him, "Oh, honey... Jesus loves your hugs."

This isn't the first time Jeffrey said that Jesus was there. It makes me wonder if he really sees Jesus (which is entirely possible). I'd like to think that Jesus IS there. That's part of our prayer every night - an invitation for Jesus to come.

There is no greater joy than to see my son fall in love with Jesus. I'm excited about the day when we get to have conversations about the Bible and who Jesus is. But I'm more excited (and sometimes burdened) by showing Jeffrey who Jesus is. (I'd rather Jeffrey see Scott and I walking with Jesus, than hear us just talk about it.)

What a blessing. I can only imagine the joy that Jesus feels when He hears a child call Him by name and want a hug. I know my heart is warmed when Jeffrey wants to hug me. How much more so does our Heavenly Father rejoice when "the least of these" wants a hug? It's beautiful.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Do cats go to heaven?

It seems to be the question of the week. We had to put our little (I use that term loosely) Newton down (aka have him "humanely euthanized") on August 13th. He was almost 10 years old, and I have been the relatively proud owner since 6 weeks following his birth. If you can believe, this mammoth of a cat once fit easily into the palm of my hand. I'm not sure if it was genetics, or the incredibly high dosage of protein that I fed him that led to his abnormal growth. In his prime, he was close to 20 pounds - heavier than a lot of small dogs.

Now, I'm not a cat person. Never have been. But I love animals of all varieties. (I just prefer that most of them stay away from me and never step foot in my home.) No matter what your pet is, it always finds a way to become a family member. Yes, even cats. (Please do not mistake this for any sort of statement that cats are people, too, cuz, clearly, they are not.) After almost a decade of caring for just about anything, inevitably you would become attached.

Newton was basically the result of Fidget (the other cat) being lonely. I could only take so much of the constant leg crawling and perching on my shoulder. She would cry and cry when I left for work, and wouldn't leave me alone for 10 seconds when I got home. She needed a companion. I found Newton. (The name actually is Sir Isaac Newton. Many mistakenly believe it was Fig Newton, which I suppose would be more appropriate considering his size.) Fidget HATED him. She was only a month older, but she insisted on being the queen of her castle and was determined to ensure that Newton understood this. She beat the crap out of him. I figured that would last until they both grew and he was big enough to fight back. And so it happened... plus about 7 pounds.

Then they fell in love. And quickly, I had to get them both fixed. I thought surely at 4 months, Newton wouldn't have a clue what Fidget meant when she stuck her butt in the air and sang a little song of enticement. And he didn't... at first. But one day, I walked in on them, and Newton seemed to have gotten the hang of his role in the relationship. I pulled him off just in the nick of time (if you know what I mean) and immediately quarantined him until the next day when I introduced him to Sir Knife which removed both Sirs Testicles. (Now that I think of it, I wonder how big he would have grown had he not been neutered at such a young age? I'm no biologist so I don't know how these things work.)

And yet they remained in love and committed to one another. Fidget would clean him for 45 minutes until his body was practically sopping wet. (My vet said Newton had the cleanest ears he had ever seen!)

Then one day and 3 moves later, after years of Fidget provoking play attacks, which eventually turned into full-out brawls, she had had enough. She wanted absolutely NOTHING to do with Newton. She rejected him. She hissed at him any time he came within a foot of her personal space. I think this was most likely the beginning of her constant vomiting and his need to find another companion (which he found in a piece of faux fur, which we lovingly named "His Lovely").

Oh, the things he did to that poor piece of fabric! We were pretty much grossed out by his public displays of affection, so I tossed His Lovely in the trash. That may have been the biggest mistake. He then turned his attention to anything soft... which included sweaters, blankets, underwear, t-shirts... We could tell what he had been up to when we got home and these things were strewn across the floor, somewhat tangled and twisted, and most often with puncture marks from his teeth. (See picture and video... This is his late Lovely.) Very disturbing.

Newton was a lover (clearly). He was the biggest lapcat ever, and always found a way to sneak onto your lap. If we pushed him off, he'd sit at our feet staring at us... for a really long time. (It was pretty creepy.) He'd eventually jump up on the arm of the couch... then slowly make his way over to us... And lean across our lap, then eventually step onto our lap. That was the dead giveaway. If we hadn't noticed it until then, we could tell what his plan was when his little, poky stick legs dug into our flesh when he walked on us. The only way we could even remotely stand having him on top of us was to push him down so he'd lay, all 20 pounds of him, across your lap, or your chest, or wherever he happened to be laying.

Newton was my slumber pal. He'd cuddle up on my pillow, or next to my head and snuggle in real tight. It sucked in the summer, but in the winter it was like a little fur pillow that purred. He belly was so soft. He'd be with me from the moment I went to bed, until the moment I got out of bed. If I moved in the middle of the night, he would often start purring which just sort of lulled me back into my slumber.

Scott and Newton had issues. There was this alpha-male battle that continued for our entire marriage thus far. Newton never had a problem with Scott until we got married and he was invited into bed with us. Newton clearly felt that this was an assault on what was clearly his property. It even got so bad that Newton would try to bite him if Scott even came near him (and did on a couple of occasions). Needless to say, Scott would put him in his place. But Newton wouldn't relent. Even after getting smacked around a few times, he still would make his point, sometimes out of the blue while he was napping next to Scott. (They had an on-again-off-again, love-hate thing. I don't think either one of them ever really learned.) When Scott would come tuck me in at night, Newton would just wait for him to get near enough so he could lunge at his hand or whatever body part happened to be closest. Eventually, I had to either hold him down, or Scott would sort of hit him with a pillow until he jumped off the bed long enough to kiss me goodnight. It was a nightly ritual.

Then we brought Jeffrey home. This was another assault. Newton was now even further down the totem pole, much to his dismay. We had always been a little concerned about how Newton and the baby would fare. But I think Newton could sense my protection because I always came around if I felt that Newton wasn't going to behave. Once Jeffrey was old enough to know better, I didn't really get in between them. Jeffrey got chomped on a couple of times, but thankfully Newton held back. (He had these fangs that hung below his chin. If he wanted to, he could do some serious damage. He's drawn blood a few times from Scott, and a couple of times from me.) He only gave Jeffrey a warning... which, of course, he, too, never learned. (Like father, like son.) Jeffrey loved him. He called him "Newt" and always wanted to cuddle with him, although 99% of the time Newton could hardly stand having Jeffrey pet him, much less lay on him.

That was the first time Newton was ever banished from the bedroom. I was nursing Jeffrey at night and didn't want his massive body suffocating my baby in the middle of the night, so we started locking Newton out. He cried a lot the first few nights, but he eventually made his way to the couch (along with some token t-shirt or whatever so he'd have something to love on).

No, Newton was no ordinary cat, that's for sure. He was hugely territorial, and no other animal or human would ever stand a chance against him. He stood his ground, no matter how big his opponent. But when it came to places he wasn't familiar with, that was a whole new ballgame. We'd let him out from time to time. If anything made a noise or moved, he'd be right back at the door wanting to be let in. For as ballsy as he was inside, he sure was a big wuss when he was outside.

And he had the most whimpy sounding meow. You'd almost expect a lion-roar out of this cat, but instead what you heard was this tiny Mike Tyson sounding mew. It was ridiculous. (It was kind of like having a huge SUV with a Geo Metro sounding horn. It was bad.)

Newton didn't snack like ordinary cats, either. No salmon or tuna for him! But, boy, if he heard you opening a bag of chips, he'd come a'runnin'! His favorite was jalapeno chips. The spicier, the better.

Something happened three months ago. His demeanor began to change.... He started to chill out a little more and got a little more cuddly. Then the sneezing started... and got worse and worse. I thought he just had a cold of some sort, but it never got better. The last couple of weeks were awful. His breathing was difficult and forced - sounded VERY stuffed up. His left eye and nostril were draining - kind of a bloody liquid. His nostril started crusting shut, so I'd have to wipe it away a couple of times each day. He looked like he was losing weight and his coat wasn't nearly as soft as it once was. I finally decided that enough was enough and he needed a visit to the doctor's office.

I honestly thought that he had either a sinus infection or some sort of eye cyst that could easily be treated with antibiotics. Jeffrey and I took him in. (I explained to Jeffrey that Newt was sick and needed to see the doctor... Newton howled the whole way. Jeffrey said, "Newton cries... Newton cries..." which eventually turned to, "All done!" meaning he had enough of that racquet.) He weighed in at 14 pounds (almost 6 pounds less than usual). Newton wouldn't let the vet near his mouth... It was explained to me that there was something obviously bothering him and she wanted to sedate him to do a thorough exam. She said at that point that it may be nothing, but her hunch was that there was a severe blockage of some sort that was most likely cancer (tumors). If that was the case, she would recommend euthanasia. Wow. That was the first I ever really thought about it. Sure, Scott and I had been joking for years that we might have to humanely euthanize him (due to his temper and violence against other male species). But we never really thought this could be a reality.

Sure enough, she returned a few minutes later to confirm her suspicions. She asked if I wanted to see it. Jeffrey and I joined her in the back. She brought Newton out on a towel, and opened his mouth, pulling out his tongue. There was a huge mass of tumors growing one on top of another, all down his tongue. No wonder he was losing weight. He most likely wasn't eating! And no wonder he had such a hard time breathing. The bridge of his nose was softened and swollen. The vet was guessing that he had tumors in his nasal cavity, as well. This was no way to live.

We made the decision right then and there to put him down. No bother taking him out of sedation to say our goodbyes. He was more comfortable where he was. I had to quickly find a way to explain this to a 2 year old. I just simply told him that Newton was very sick and that he wasn't going to be coming home with us. I told Jeffrey, "You'll need to tell him goodbye." Jeffrey leaned over Newton, laid his head on his belly for about 20 seconds, then said, "Bye-bye, Newt," and waved at him. This just killed me. I pretty much lost it at that point. (Jeffrey looked at me and said, "Mommy cries..." and gave me a big hug.)

The vet's assistant was kind enough to watch Jeffrey for a few moments so I, too, could say my goodbyes. I just pet him for a while, whispered in his ears and kissed him goodbye.

That was the last we saw of him.

Since then, our home has been absent one family member. Even Scott was surprised to find that he misses the little booger. Fidget seems to be confused and comes around more than she used to. Jeffrey has asked about Newton a couple of times, and went looking for him once. I miss him and his soft belly at night.

I'm grateful that we took him in when we did. Poor kitty was suffering.

What's funny is this has prompted some conversations about whether or not animals have souls, and whether or not animals go to heaven. What do you think?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Bee stings and discipline

I'm not a huge fan of the term "Terrible Twos". All kids go through the stage where they stretch and flex their independent muscles, but that doesn't make them "terrible." This is a time when, as a parent, we get to flex our patience muscles.

Jeffrey has been in his "big boy bed" for about a month now (give or take). The transition was pretty easy at first, although every time we put him down he kept pointing to his crib saying, "Nigh-nigh... Nigh-nigh..." in sort of a sad tone. (I don't blame him. That bed is familiar and comfy and he feels safe there.) But, we stuck with it. Naps were and are a cinch. Bedtime, however, is a slightly different story.

And it really hasn't helped with 107 degree temps with no air conditioning. For the past week when the temps hit their high, Scott slept out on the couch so he could keep watch over the completely open house, and I brought Jeffrey into bed with me so that he wasn't alone in his room with an open window. (I just have this nagging fear that he'll either find a way to crawl out, or someone will steal him. He is our prized possession, ya know. I just feel safer with him cuddled next to me.) Starting late last week when the temps finally fell back to the low-nighties (as if you could really call that "falling temps"), we put him back in his bed.

And the flexing began. I think he thinks it's a game when he gets out of his bed, opens his bedroom door and peers out. He never (correction, rarely) actually leaves the bedroom. He just opens the door a crack, peeks out and shuts it again... then opens it again... and shuts it again... We calmly tuck him back in bed and leave. Which is another invitation to crawl out of bed, sneak to the door, open it a crack and peek out, etc. This usually goes on for about 20 minutes, sometimes 30. But by then, he's pretty much tuckered out and will stay in bed (after a gentle scolding).

Last night, however, this went on for a good 2 hours. We at first remained calm. Then it escalated and he got the "firm voice" (almost a yell, but not quite - really more low and growly than anything)... Then it turned into the "get your butt back in bed!"... which then turned into a relatively gentle butt-swat... I would just keep tucking him back in bed and leaving. I know he knew I meant business, but honestly I think after a couple of weeks of super late nights and early mornings, he's completely sleep deprived, which always is a recipe for disaster. (All you parents know EXACTLY what I'm talking about.) Once, he peeked out, I was waiting for him and told him to get back in bed, to which he responded with a slammed door, followed by a loud thud, a couple of seconds of silence, then a loud, "Owie!!!!" followed by crying. I, of course, went in to see what happened. I just found him in a heap on the floor holding his forehead saying "owie... owie...". (My guess is that he turned to run back to bed, and underestimated where the dresser was and likely ran into the corner. Sad, but kinda funny at the same time.) Another time I opened the door and he had his pillow and blanket in hand ready to make the move to the livingroom or our bedroom. (Hey, at least he planned ahead!) At the end of 2 hours, he had resorted to taking his pants (and diaper) off - my guess is because he knew we'd have to come in and tend to him. Aha! Attention!

What a stinker.

Scott finally snuggled in bed with him until he fell asleep. Total time from the time we started our bedtime routine to the time he fell asleep: 3.5 hours. A record.

Then at 2:30 this morning I heard a massive thud through the monitor (yes, I still use it after 2 years - for good reason), followed by a couple seconds of silence, and the familiar, "OWIE!!!!!" and crying. I popped out of bed to check on him. He was in a heap on the floor. He fell out of bed. (There is something amusing about how he says "owie" and cries... It's sad, but it always tugs at my heart strings.) I just tucked him back in bed nice and tight, and he fell right back asleep.

But... now it's 3:00 am and I can't sleep a wink. I'm uncomfortable. I'm uber tired. My baby is wiggling like she's swimming the 400 meter freestyle. And, frankly, I'm thirsty. Ugh.

Jeffrey also learned a few weeks ago how to open one of our side gates in the yard. He's about 2 feet from reaching the latch, but he learned that if he wiggles the gate just right, it'll pop open. The first time this happened, Scott and I, luckily, were in the front yard yapping as I was watering the plants. Scott glanced over his shoulder to find Jeffrey half-way down the court street (shared driveway, whatever you want to call it), proudly giggling to himself. We've since jammed a stick in the little latch hole thing to keep it from popping open. However, the brilliant escape artist that he is decided to sneak back there last evening to have a looksee while daddy was bringing in groceries and mommy was taking out garbage - thus having a few minutes to himself. I got back inside, and made my way to the backyard to play, when I heard the gate slam.

Now... I was at the sliding glass door at this time. The gate is all the way on the OTHER side of the house, and literally feet from the court street, which is just a few meters from the cul de sac. I darted out of the house, running barefoot across teensy tiny (sharp) gravel, out the gate, jumped over the neighbor's retaining wall and down the street to grab Jeffrey who was already at the cul de sac and proceeding to run into the street. I don't think I've ever run so fast in my life. (Amazing what adrenaline does for you.) Mind you, I'm almost 31 weeks pregnant. Yeah... nice picture. Jeffrey was LAUGHING the entire way. He was just having a ball! I caught up to him in the middle of the cul de sac - out in the open street. (Praise Jesus that no cars were coming, and that our ghetto neighbor, Consuela Andretti, wasn't coming or going - cuz she literally reaches breakneck speeds in and out of the drive.) Scary stuff. You don't ever want to see your kid running for the street. (I just get this image of the scene from Pet Cemetery when the kids gets hit by the semi in my mind... That sucks.)

Earlier this week, Jeffrey got his first (three) bee stings. Actually... I'm not certain they were bees. Could have been a wasp. Could have been a foul-mooded fly of some sort. Either way, we were playing in the yard as I was watering plants and Jeffrey was kicking around his soccer ball when he started grabbing at his shirt and belly saying, "Owie! Owie!" followed by a shrieking scream. I immediately ran to him and lifted his shirt. There was a bee fluttering around his elbow (which is why I think he got stung by bees). I figured he had been stung, so I whisked him into the kitchen to have a look. Three stings right by his belly button, already swollen white with a big red dot in the middle. My first thought was, "Good Lord, I hope he isn't allergic." I've been stung a thousand times (well... at least several dozen... I never learned), and I'm familiar with the "sting" of a bee sting, but luckily it does fade rather quickly. I just listened to his breathing to make sure he wasn't going into anaphylactic shock. Meanwhile, I had Scott make up a thick paste of baking soda and water. (This is what we always used when I was a kid... seemed to take care of the swelling and pain.) I wasn't positive that the stingers were out, so I ran a warm bath and washed the area really well, followed by some ointment and Tylenol. He was such a trooper. He cried for about 5 minutes, then was back to his happy self, even though his belly was all swollen. He pointed and said, "Owie..." Yeah... owie is right! Bee stings are no fun!

Last night Jeffrey decided that the hose nozzle was a microphone, into which he sang the ABC's. It's moments like these that warms a mama's heart. I love the way he sings... "A...B... C...D..." (inaudible inaudible) "GEE!!!!... H... I" (inaudible inaudible) "blebble blebble bleh..." (that's his version of "L M N O P") "QUE!!!!! R!!!! S!!!!! ... T!!!!" (inaudible) " VEE!!!!" (inaudible) "EX!!!!!" (inaudible) "ZEE!!!!!!" He's so cute.

This is the first week with my new schedule. Already making plans with mommy friends on my first Thursday off. We're walking with Mia (and girls) and Tamara (and kids), and later hanging with Kim and her son by the pool (if I manage enough courage to actually be seen in a bathing suit, eegads).

But for today, I have to head to work in short order, and hopefully snag a nap when I pick up Jeffrey at 12:30. I'm seriously pooped. Having two little humans to care for should be interesting.