Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Angel kisses

While in church Sunday, a reference about a proverb about a dog came up in the sermon. Curious, I started reading through the Proverbs - though I didn't realize there was so many!! I never did find one about a dog, but instead I found one that caught my eye:

The glory of the young is their strength; the gray hair of experience is the splendor of the old. 
Proverb 20:29 NLT

This made me think of a discussion I had with my children the other day. My overly observant 10 year old son was standing next me while I was making dinner, and he suddenly says;

"Oh look Mom, a grey hair".

Quick thinking, I quickly say "No, those are Angel kisses. It means I am blessed."

My 12 (almost 13) year old chimed in at this point and adds "No Mom, you are just old."

Gee, thanks! In all honestly, having passed the "check if you are 40+" birthday a couple of years back, I understand that to my children, I am old. While I may not like it, I realize it.  

The irony of this is that I don't see myself as old. I see my own parents as older, and my Grandfather as old. But when I look in the mirror, I don't see old. 

So we ever see ourselves that way? I look at pictures taken 20 years ago, and I still see me in them. I might see someone who was (a lot) thinner, but it is still me. Self-perception is a funny thing. While I might see a lot of flaws like a double chin, thick waist and auburn instead of copper hair, I don't see someone who is 40-something. 

The popular saying "You are only as old as you think you are" comes to mind. If I think I am younger, than I see someone looking back at me in the mirror who is younger. I don't see the teen acne and the thick glasses, but I also don't see the difference between me and someone who is 20 years younger. 

Of course, when they are standing right next to you, then it can become like a slap in the face. I remember one wedding I went to a few years ago, and all the Bridesmaids were in their VERY yearly 20's or younger. They were all strikingly beautiful girls. When I went into the ladies room to touch up my lipstick, several were standing next to me fixing their hair. Their reflections were right next to mine, and I was horror struck at how old I suddenly looked. Before I had entered the bathroom, age hadn't even entered my mind, but with the comparison glaring back at me in that brightly lit room, I saw how looser my skin was, how my eyes had deep lines around them, how my makeup looked like make-up versus the younger girls glowing skin. 

My husband commented later that he didn't remember when I had drank so much so quickly.

So how does this all go back to the Proverb in the begining of this blog. Well, what I have found is that no matter what we believe about our age, each passing year cannot be escaped. The reality that we are all born and we all die is inescapable. Yet their are gifts that come with age. Gifts that the young cannot have, no matter how book learned they are.

It is the gift of wisdom. 
With each gray hair I get, it is a sign that I have earned by wisdom the hard way - through life experience. I have listened and I have learned and now, it is my turn to teach. I am old enough that I have learned much from life's ups and down's, but young enough to know that I still have a lot to learn. 

The gray hairs remind me that time is moving on, whether I like it or not. The remind me that someday, my youngest son won't need a stool to stand next to me and help me cook - he will be cooking on his own. 

The gray hair remind me that someday, I will be sitting on the couch with my grandchildren while my sons and their wives cook for me. 

The gray hair reminds me that someday, my house will be quiet except for the occasional phone calls when my sons want to update me about their jobs. 

The gray hair also reminds me that I have made it this far, with many more blessings in my life than I thought possible. 

And there are so many more to come. 
Blessings I meant, not gray hairs!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Walking my cats

Yes, I did say cats, not dogs. 
I am a certified dog trainer, but I own cats. 
5 of them actually. 
I didn't set out to be the crazy cat lady with 5 cats - it just seem to happen.

They are all rescues with sad stories, and I am a sucker for sad stories. Mace, the 4 year old with the crooked tail, showed up in our driveway in the late winter of '08, starving, his leg broken and his skin hanging from his bones. He had a microchip - but the Humane Society (who had originally placed him) said that the house was empty and looked like it had been that way for a while. They also said Mace was only 9 months old. Okay, he melted our hearts with his high energy, toddler-like antics, his handsome tuxedo coat and his piercing golden eyes.

Then last year, after the tragic passing of both my beloved 16-year old cat Tad and my son's 15 year-old cat Lily, we added Domino (pictured above) also known as Dom, and his "sister" Spring. They were found together with two other kittens in a dumpster downtown, only 3-4 weeks old. They were so matted with stuff that they had to be shaved after 4 baths didn't get everything off. The vet and people in the cat show world we know have told us that Dom is part Maine Coon, given his 20 lbs body and his 40 inch length. He also has the classic long tail, "snow shoe" paw pads and high pitched squeak of a meow. Unfortunately, God only felt that good looks was all Dom needed - he is by far the dumbest cat I have ever owned.

His "sister" Spring is this tiny 5 pound cat with Cleopatra eyes. She is my baby, and won't let anyone else touch her but me. She had to climb on my chest and make biscuits (knead) and sit behind me in what ever chair I am in (including the toilet - I gave up on privacy with my first cat!). She loves to play fetch with me, bringing her toy mice to me, dropping them on my lap and waiting for me to throw them (see, I don't REALLY need a dog!).

Then there is the brother and sister, Taffy and Tuffy. They are 13 year old Tonkinese cats, a breed that is a cross between Burmese and Siamese. Yes, in case you are wondering, they are LOUD. They were originally owned by a gentleman at the church I attend. He got them as kitten from a breeder to complement to two Burmese he had, Bogie and Bacall. When the man became overwhelmed by his cancer, I was asked to come in and take care of the cats (along with his other 4!). It was only a few weeks before cancer won the battle, and my task then became to find homes for all the cats. All the cats BUT these two find home quickly, but no one wanted to take two elderly cats, especially with the fact that the female, Taffy, is completely deaf. I found a wonderful rescue group to foster them, but that quickly went south when both cats developed pneumonia.
So, needing a place to foster them while on antibiotics, they came to my house.

And this is how I got 5 cats.

Now that you have that info, you might want to know about the title - walking my cats. Yes, I do walk my cats. We live in a beautiful neighborhood surrounded by the Sierras - which are populated by coyotes. People that live around here refer to free roaming cats as "Coyote Bait". It is sad to drive through our area and see all the "Cat Missing" posters. I choose not to have to put one of those up for any of mine, so I let them out for supervised strolls in my backyard.

Three out of the five cats could care less about leaving my backyard - it is just Spring and Mace that are the fence hoppers. So, every morning I put on my shoes, open the back door and out they go! It is usually around 6am that I do this - not by choice, mind you. I would rather it be 7:30 or so.

Dom and Tuffy have different ideas. They start howling like the coyotes themselves and in an act of self preservation, I usher them outside so everyone else can sleep. I know they plan this - they flip a piece of cat kibble to decide who is going to climb on my face and meow the loudest.

I've tried to ignore them, but then they wake up everyone else, and I am the one that has to suffer with the grumpy-growly guys all day, not the cats. So, I trudge bleary eyed outside, with 5 sets of feet following behind me. We usually only spend about 30-45 minutes out there, enough time to chase a few birds, ambush a few crickets, and roll in the dirt.

Not a bad way to greet the morning. 

Friday, September 23, 2011

I love my kids...honest I do!

I love being a parent. Having been born with von Willebrand disease, I was told I could never have children. So, the fact that I have two healthy boys is an immense blessing. I know my life would be incomplete with out them. 

With that being said...sometimes I want to dig up the receipt and trade them in for a refund!!!! 

In my last post, I vented about homework. Well, this is sort of related. Yesterday, when the one child was struggling to get his pounds of homework done, the other son, who is way into Nerf guns, decides that the way to "help" his brother study was to open fire on him with not one, but two Nerf guns (on in each hand - he is very skilled!). Before I could blink, the homework-laden son is chasing his brother through the house, screaming at the top of his lungs, threatening great bodily harm. The Nerf-toting son is laughing hysterically, keeping just out of the reach of his little brother. I hear slamming of doors, followed by banging of doors. More yelling, more laughing, followed by the proverbial "Stop it". Then I hear a crash, then more laughing and more yelling, but this time, the roles are reversed. Now I hear "You are so dead", followed by another crashing noise, followed by the howling of the cats as the duck and cover. 

What I am doing, you might ask? Well, I am yelling at the both of them to stop, but they are 10x louder and can't hear me. Realizing that the testosterone is flowing to thick to  allow their hearing to work properly, I decide I am going to stand in their way down the stairs like a brick wall to get their attention. Okay, well, I needed to hire a union brick-layer I guess, because the two of them flew through me like tissue paper!

Now they are outside, with the older one in full pursuit of the younger one, threatening to remove his sibling from existence, yet again. He seems to have forgotten that he started it all. At this point, I yell at the top of my lungs that they have until the count of 5 to get back here or the Nerf guns, the Wii and the coveted baseball card collection was all going on Ebay and I was using the money for a pedicure. 

Hmmmm....interestingly enough, I didn't even get to 3 before they were back in the house. By the time I got to 5, the younger one was back in his homework cave and the older one was taking out the trash with out me even asking. 

Guess I will have to fund my pedicure some other way.    

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Why I hate homework

Okay - so now that we are in the 4th week of school, I can officially say - I HATE HOMEWORK!

What exactly is the purpose of the children spending 6-7 hours in school, then spending another 2-3 hours pouring over homework? I am not talking about high schoolers - no, this is the average for some elementary school kids! And it isn't the teachers struggling with the homework issue - often it is either a credit or a non-credit score; either the child brings it in completed or they don't.

Parents, on the other hand, get to deal with the daily battles of a tired child who wants to decompress from school and run around in the fresh outdoors (since most schools see recess as unnecessary and don't have PE because it is "un-testable" - translation: it isn't important) who is instead having to regurgitate the days' lesson with busy work.

I personally have incountered many times where my children are doing homework on concepts that haven't even been covered, or covered poorly, so then I become the teacher. Granted, I have a degree in education, yet I think about how many parents come home from a long day at their jobs to have to become a teacher. Instead of having some time to reconnect with their children in a meaningful fashion, then end up having to argue and fight with them, sometimes late into the night. I was talking to a parent of a 9 year old the other night that came home from her son having football practice to work until 11 pm helping him with his homework! Another mom of a 2nd grader tells me her 7 year old has up to 2 hours of homework NIGHTLY! That is just madness!!!

A few schools in our area have gone "homework free". One school actually had a teacher who assigned no homework to her students for a whole year, then compared her students' test results with the students in the other grade level classes. Her result - there was no significant difference in the test scores. She felt that it was her job to cover what they needed in class, not the parents.

While the idea appeals to me, I am not 100% sold on the idea. I worry how these kids are going to go from no homework to the truckload that appears in middle school. I have seen some middle-schoolers breaking their backs with the homework books they are carrying home in their backpacks. One poor girl last year went through two good backpacks because the weight of the books ripped the shoulder straps.

I think there is a middle ground. I have heard that the standard rule of thumb is 10 minutes of homework per grade level. So that 2nd grader should have only 30 minutes of homework per night, versus my 7th grader having 80 minutes. That, to me, does seem reasonable.

And, if it hasn't been covered in class, don't send it home.

So as my 10 year old is crying that he doesn't understand how to do a square-root number array, I really trying to keep my blood pressure down enough to help him. Oh goody - he just told me this is only page 1 of 4 of his math homework. Oh, and he had a report due on Monday, and he needs to type it on the computer...and bring it to school on a flash drive.

There goes any hope of a relaxing weekend...

Reflections about coffee

The other day on Facebook, I posted about how oddly better coffee tasted when it was poured from my plastic travel mug into my Grandmother's old Irish ceramic mug. It is a strange phenomenon I have noticed before. Coffee isn't really meant to go in plastic mugs. Coffee is meant to be in a ceramic mug, one that feels heavy in your hand, that dribbles over the side as you walk, and that emits flavorful steamy smells that fill your nose.

Have you ever noticed this difference? When I thought about it, I started thinking about how this small change has so many implications about our lifestyle. When you have your coffee in a travel mug, in implies that you are going somewhere, often in a hurry, so much so that you can't have time to finish your coffee first. Another implication is that you are putting it in a "sippy cup", just like what gave to our toddler children, indicating that you are in such a rush that you anticipate spilling. Hence, the lid on the cup. You are also putting in a plastic cup because it is lighter, so you don't have to balance a heavy coffee mug with your various work bags and laptop cases you are carrying with you. And lastly, you know this cup will fit in your cup holder, once again indicating that you are in a hurry and will be finish that cup while driving.

All of this points to one thing. We need to slow down. Coffee used to be a luxury, a warm beverage to sip while reading the morning paper or sitting out back on a crisp morning. It is meant to be served hot, as it forces you to slow down to drink it. While you are drinking it slowly, the steam vapors carry the fragrance into your nose, making you inhale deeper, relaxing you further. Because the mug is wide rimmed and sans a lid, you must slow down with each sip, or else endure the wrath of burning coffee on parts of the body that should never endure such pain.

So to answer the original question of why the coffee taste better in Grandma's old mug is because I am actually taking the time to enjoy this brief moment of liquid heaven.

Well it helps that it is Grandma's mug too, but that is for a different post.....