Oh, hi there, Winter!

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For the first time in two years, Anya and I have been at home when it snowed enough to be fun. Fun is, of course, relative, and probably the folks stuck in their cars in ditches or dealing with power outages at home had different feelings about the recent weather. But, that wasn’t us. Yay! Fun!

We did get kicked out of school early on Thursday (we don’t have school on Fridays), and poor Andy had to work at home for the bits when his job wasn’t closed. So, we were all home for several days in a row. We enjoyed the snow….

…we enjoyed the snow again…

…we watched the dog enjoy the snow…

…we played games (dominoes, Sorry!, Monopoly, Settlers of Catan — this kid is a game nut)…

…and eventually we all went a bit crazy and AIEIEIE GET US OUT OF THIS HOUSE.

Rest in peace, Little Kitty

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Shortly after we adopted Big Kitty (at that time called just “Kitty”), we decided it would be a very good idea to get another cat. Kitty really need a friend to help keep him out of trouble. Since Kitty was still a teeny kitten himself, we thought it would be nice to get another teeny kitten. That’s when we found Lightning, which is what she was called when we found her. (She was in a little cage with Thunder, of course.) Andy liked her name, so we kept it, but I couldn’t spell it and thought it was silly, so I started calling our pair Big Kitty and Little Kitty.

BK and LK were a great team, and having another cat around did help BK stay out of trouble. Of course, there was then LK to get into trouble. Because they were both black, it was a bit hard to tell who was who. There were a few ways to tell them apart, though. Little Kitty purred pretty much if you looked at her (at least back in those days). Big Kitty was…well…bigger. Their eyes were also different. Little Kitty’s gaze, to me at least, always seemed much more intense. And, well, yes, we gave them different colored collars!

The two Kitties weren’t a pair for long, though. Over the next two or three years we added several more cats to the family. Bob was fine, but TreeFrog wanted to be boss and tried to dominate Little Kitty–who would have none of that. Then we brought Buddy home, and TreeFrog bribed him with extra kibble or something, and Buddy started beating on Little Kitty. During one fight, I tried to break things up, and Buddy chomped my hand. (That’s when I learned, the hard way, how bad a cat bite can get.) During another fight, Buddy somehow sliced Little Kitty’s tail and pulled a tendon out. [That was actually a sort of funny story. One day I was petting LK, and I found a piece of string hanging off her tail. Actually, it looked more like dental floss. I couldn’t figure out how she’d got that caught on her tail, and I couldn’t really see where it was stuck. I called Andy in, and he couldn’t figure it out either. It sort of looked like the string/floss had gotten tangled on and cut her tail a bit. I trimmed the end of the string with nailclippers so it wouldn’t get caught on anything, and we took her to the animal urgent care. The vet was as perplexed as we were for just a moment, then he announced that the string was really a tendon that had been pulled out of Little Kitty’s tail. I freaked out a bit until the vet assured me that the tendon I’d snipped off was toast and he wouldn’t have been able to fix it anyhow. It must not have been a very important bit because her tail never looked funny or floppy. (I would like to add that Little Kitty did get her fair share of punches in. I found wounds on Buddy several times, too.)]

For the next few years, Little Kitty hid most of the time. She lived on the china cabinet for a year, coming down only to go potty. Eventually, she traded that place in and moved under our bed. Sometimes she lived in the bed, crawling into the box spring through a hole she’d shredded in it. We’d put little bowls of food and water out for her wherever she decided to be, and sometimes we’d hear her purring and know she was okay. Andy and I were both pretty sad about this, but we didn’t really know what else to do. I suppose we could have found her a new home, but she was our Little Kitty, and we were family.

When we moved out to the boonies, things started to look up for LK. Buddy became an outside cat during the day. Little Kitty was free and we saw her more than we had in years. She was still a loner and preferred to stay to herself, and she’d run off and hide at night when Buddy came in. They still had fights but nothing like before. And then a few years ago, Buddy died, and Little Kitty was home free. She was still pretty quiet and reclusive, but we did get to see her more.

Little Kitty always had a pretty sensitive stomach. When she was a young adult kitty, she started barfing everything she’d eat. I took her to the vet, and they did x-rays, and the vet found a mass. I was all freaked thinking she had a tumor, but when they did surgery, they found out it was a really hard piece of poo. Ha. Still, after that surgery we had to feed her and give her water with a syringe for a while because she was so weak and wouldn’t eat or drink on her own. I remember sleeping on the floor next to her on a sleeping bag, waking up every few hours to give her some more. When I had to go to work, she stayed with a friend who did feedings for me. Little Kitty healed well, but after that she’d every now and then have troubles with food. We had to make sure not to change food much because we never knew if she’d be okay with it.

As she got older, her eating got worse and she started to fade. For the last few months we fed her canned food only…and it had to be on a clean plate…and the spoon used to scoop the food could not have touched any other cat food…and no other cat could have touched her food. There was a bit of a ritual to it, but we did what we had to to try and get her to eat. For a while all she’d eat was tuna fish. Over time, she ate less and less, and she was skin and bones. We made an appointment to put her to sleep back in April, but she still had that glimmer in her eyes and she started to eat more, and so we held off. One day about a week and a half ago, she started eating like crazy. I’d feed her and she’d lick the plate clean and meow for more. She went from eating maybe 3/4 of a can of food to at least 2 in a day. This went on for a few days when we decided a vet check was in order. Something weird was definitely going on. The morning of the appointment, she stopped eating. She wouldn’t touch any food. That afternoon, the vet confirmed that the end was here, and I took Little Kitty home so we could all have a chance to say goodbye.

About a week after we adopted Little Kitty, she got a cold. I remember her tiny little body curled up on our big, giant bed…snot bubbling out of her nose. She was so, so small. The last night Little Kitty and I spent together, she was that teeny, sick kitten again. I slept on the couch, holding her for most of the night until she seemed to slip into unconsciousness. I made her a little bed on the floor and talked to her and in the morning she was gone.

Night night, little Larry

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For all of you pet people out there, here is a very important piece of advice: If you decide to adopt nine cats, be sure to stagger them by age. What I’m saying here is, avoid having nine cats who are all about the same age. It’s not a big deal in the beginning, but around the 14th or 15th year, all your cats start to die.

Larry was named Lawrence when we found him at the humane society. We changed his name to Larry. Sometimes Larry Boy, sometimes Larry Bear. My mom called him Larry Lightning Butt ’cause he had a white swoosh on his back side. (Much much much later, we found out he should have been named Lori.) We took Larry and Spam home at the same time (buy one get one free!) shortly after our kitten, Tama, died of FIP.

Larry was our only declawed cat, and I think that had an effect on him. He always seemed to be trying to make up for that by being a tough boy. Andy and I’d play a game with him where he’d flop on his back and bat at my hand (or Andy’s)…thwap thwap thwap….and he’d start to growl and snarl and try to bite. Sometimes I’d trick him a bit and tug on his tail. He’d flop around to defend that side of his body while I tickled his then defenseless tummy. Eventually this game would get him super riled up, and we’d have to run and hide from him and his pointy teeth. At heart though, Larry was a lover. He loved to snuggle and sit in laps. His little claw-less paw would tap-tap-tap on your leg when you sat at the computer or table. It was his way of asking if he could climb up and take a rest.

Larry and TreeFrog had a very interesting relationship. For most of their lives I thought they were like an old, cranky married couple, fighting and yowling one minute and snuggling and purring the next. When we found out Larry was really a girl, the conflict between the two seemed to make more sense as TreeFrog was always trying to be alpha female. Larry didn’t really seem to be close with any of the other cats. He was more of a people person. When he got smaller, Anya started picking him up and carrying him places. I think if the idea had ever occurred to her, Anya would have dressed Larry up in doll clothes and pushed him in a stroller.

Larry loved to eat. He’d eat about anything and especially liked slurping up the milk Anya would leave in her cereal bowl. Larry wasn’t terribly graceful, but he was stealthy and quick and could nab a tasty tidbit off a plate in no time. Strangely, in the last year or so, no matter how much he ate he kept getting skinner. (Lab tests showed nothing really wrong.)

Last summer, I noticed something strange about Larry, and it took me a while to figure out his right pupil was totally dilated and not reacting to light. We did some googling and decided there wasn’t much that could be done whatever it was. The vet later confirmed this. When his eye went black and started to protrude, the vet agreed that it was most likely a tumor. Because Larry was so old and skinny and weak, he would not likely make it through surgery to remove the eye, so we decided to let things run their course. He got a little slower, the eye got grosser, and eventually we felt it was time to put him to sleep. It was a lot tougher making this decision with Larry than the others because the others had diminished so much from their normal selves…they were slow and tiny. But Larry was still Larry until the end.

Goodnight my little Larry Boy.

Farewell, TreeFroggie

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TreeFrog is a weird name for a cat. Especially for a fat black/brown tortie cat. I always used to say that when we got her she was concave but she got convex pretty quickly. She ate like crazy at first, and we always figured it was because she lived on the streets for a while. We also always imagined she’d had babies ’cause she seemed so much like a mother. She loved Sana like a mama, and I often found the two curled up together in a puddle of cute.

Anyone who knew TreeFrog figured out how she got her name fairly quickly. She didn’t meow; she croaked. I think in a past life she was a chain smoker. Perhaps even a chain-smoking frog. After she ingested the Tide with Bleach (stepped in it and licked it off her paws), her voice got even cracklier. (Did you know there is a poison control hotline just for pets?)

I don’t remember why we chose to take Froggie home, but I do remember asking Andy a few times in the early days if we could take her back to the humane society. She was so darn annoying! She always wanted someone to pay attention to her, pet her, scritch her ears, tell her what a great kitty she was. If I’d wanted that sort of thing, I’d have gotten a dog. Arg! And then her other favorite hobby was peeing on the carpet. She was the reason we pulled all the carpet out of the main floor of our old house. (Though I guess I should thank her for that, ’cause the hardwoods under the carpet were way better.) But, taking her back wasn’t an option. She was part of our family the day we brought her home.

Eventually, I grew accustomed to her needy ways and am glad Andy knew I was being crazy and didn’t let us return her. She loved to crawl under the blankets at night and curl up next to my leg. She was the favorite of most every visitor what with her being so friendly and cute. Lots of folks offered to take her home with them.

A few years ago, TreeFrog started loosing her teeth until she was more like her toothless name sake. (Frogs don’t have teeth, do they??) She started getting concave again. We think she developed kidney problems. In late April, she stopped eating all together, and she began to fade away. On May 11, Andy took her to the vet, and she left us.

Goodbye, my little Froggie.

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s…

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….me wearing a cape I made for Anya’s class.

This weekend I made seven capes. Most of them don’t look like this one. Well, none of them look like this one. One of them looks kind of like this one but with zebra stripes. The rest are velvety, and I can’t wear them because I don’t have the neck of a 3-4-5-year old, and Anya refused to model one for me, and so I have no picture. And now for a fair-crafting update.

137 | Needlework | Quilt | Wall Hanging: Completed

I feel like a real quilter now. The pattern I chose was called “Amish Unknown” and was from Quilts from America’s Heartland: Step-By-Step Directions for 35 Traditional Quilts, which I found at the library. I love the library. If you recall, I had a bit of a rocky start. Yeah, I am pretty sure the measurements in the book were wrong. Here’s a picture of the size called for in the book (left) and what it really should have been (right). (I forgot to mark the mistake in the book before I returned it. Arg.)

After I ranted and whined for a while about having to cut down those squares, the block went together pretty quickly. I stalled for a week or two, though, on the binding. My goal was to finish this weekend, but yesterday I realized I was almost out of thread. So, I took a nap. But when I woke up the thread fairy had not appeared, and I learned the fabric store in town closed in 32 minutes. I threw Anya and Andy in the car and flew! I thought all was lost when a fancy car from one of the funeral homes in town pulled out in front of us on the road-with-few-passing-zones. Luckily, they were done with the funeral and on their way home and I guess ready for a beer because they drove pretty fast. We pulled into the parking lot of the fabric store with three minutes to spare. One of the workers was walking out the door, and I began to panic. I grabbed my money, ignored Andy and Anya, and dashed to the store door, which was mercifully still open. I walked in, and the lights were dim, and all the other employees were standing in the entry way with their coats on and their purses on their arms. Uh oh.

But, when I held up my nearly-empty spool and declared a thread emergency, one of the women calmly escorted me to the thread display, picked out what I needed, gave it to me, and ushered me towards the checkout, where another woman rang up my purchase with a smile and turned off the cash register, and then they all gathered behind me and herded me out of the shop before I could be distracted by shiny objects. I was so excited and full of glee, I flung my thread-holding hand up into the air as I skipped to the car. The spool flew from my fingers and bounced off the parking lot surface and rollllllllllllled under the car down the hill towards the huge drop off to the street below. Time went in slow motion as I yelled, “My threeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad!” Then I realized there was a wall there and the thread didn’t go so far and it would all be O.K.

Anyhow. After that I felt I must do the binding immediately. Otherwise all the drama was pointless. It took me three episodes of Monarch of the Glen and several furry helpers to do the hand stitching on the back, but now it is done! (I can’t believe they killed off Hector!!!)

Now, without further ado….

Hiking adventure

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Today Anya and I went hiking for four hours or so. We went to the Bottom Creek Gorge nature preserve (about 10-15 minutes from the house). It has three trails, and we walked two of them and saw the second highest waterfall in Virginia! Apparently on the trail we didn’t go on there are the remains of some cabins for folks who used to live up there, and we met someone at the waterfall viewing area whose “father’s people came from there.” We’ll have to go back and bring Cabol with us next time.

I’ve posted some more pictures.

According to the trail map we went about 3.5 miles, ranging from 2200-2600′ elevations. Anya did incredibly well, leading the way for most of the trip to the falls and part of the way back, at least until we started to run out of energy. I was impressed at her rock climbing abilities, since I have all the agility of a wounded rhino.

Wowsie Daisy!

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Amusing things the kid has said lately. Can you figure out what she meant?

1. “Daddy, would you go get my weasel out of the car?”

2. “I got a casket today!”

I pulled out my rotary cutter, iron, and sewing machine a week or two ago to start on the quilted items for the fair. (Should I mention it took me a week to find the iron?) Anya was immediately intrigued by everything. Letting her use the rotary cutter was out of the question, especially after I sliced my finger. But, I remember helping my Mom iron when I was a kid, so that seemed something okay to try. (I was in charge of my Dad’s handkerchiefs!) We do have an ironing board, but it’s buried in the closet behind a few hundred pounds of scrapbook stuff and a dozen shoes (some matched, some not). Who needs an ironing board, really, when you have stone counter tops? I laid out a hand towel with a cloth napkin on top. Worked quite well. After I had the iron heated up, the kid pushed a chair over against the counter and demanded a turn.

She is, I think, a better ironer than I am now that she’s had about as much practice as I’ve had in my entire life. She only ironed in a few wrinkles and nothing got burned (fingers or fabric). Yay! If anyone in the house needs a shirt straightened out, I know who I am asking to do the job.

I also remember my Mom showing me how to use her sewing machine, so if this story ends in a trip to the ER it’s all her fault! (Don’t worry; it doesn’t.) I found some scrap pieces of fabric and talked Anya through all the parts of the machine. Everything was set up and ready to go when we realized Anya and Miss Piggy have something in common (other than being awesome singers). Neither one can reach the pedal. Miss Piggy wears super shoes to reach. Anya ran off and came back with her step stool from the bathroom. Perhaps not as glamorous as 12inch heels, but it worked just the same. She was a bit startled by the zoooooom of the machine, but she got used to it pretty quickly and sewed several scrap pieces together.

That’s my girl!

I’m in love

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178 | Craft | Art | Stamping: Completed

I think I’ve found my next new thing. Linoleum block printing. I got a starter kit for Christmas two years ago, and it’s been patiently waiting for me. When I saw that stamping was an art item, I knew immediately what I was going to do. The two little people in the image are from our Loafkeeper logo. I planned to have “Loafkeeper Farm” written under the people, but I had a tough time getting the image to transfer from my paper to the block (using carbon paper). I was able to see enough of the carbon image of the people to trace over it with sharpie, but the letters were totally lost. Plan B was to cut the letters out of cardstock with the cricut, use removable adhesive to stick them on the block, and then trace or carve. With that in mind, I left a big uncarved spot on the block. This morning when I looked at the stamp, I realized how much that uncarved spot looked like a little hill and how nicely the people seemed to be sitting on it. I curved the edges a bit and decided to leave it. I love the way it turned out. Lino blocks rock. Cheap, easy, and fun!

Sweet Baby Cheeses! (Or, How I spent my winter break)

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The other day when Andy had to stop the car suddenly, Anya blurted out “Sweet cheeses!” At least that is what I am telling myself she said. Another one of her favorite exclamations? “What the hex!” We are definitely doing a great job making sure our kid has a colorful vocabulary.

Last week, the kid had winter break, so she and I packed our clothes, toothbrushes, legos, dollies, and various crafts and drove to Georgia. We did all the usual things one does when on winter break. We drew monster eggs on the porch and waited for them to hatch. We planted and watered acorns in the flower boxes. We made chalk outlines of each other and then washed them away.

We went to Michael’s four or five times, bought little wooden birdhouses, and did a little painting. Anya’s first birdhouse (of 3, they were only a dollar!) was done up in bright, happy colors. After that, I can only figure that she decided birds were goth or emo or something, so she gleefully mixed all the colors we had into a big gray mess. I have to admit her coverage on those last two houses was impressive. Nary a bit of wood showed through the thunderstorm-colored paint.

I re-started my afghan. Anya was very excited when the afghan was big enough for her. It still seemed too small to me, so I plodded on. I really should have stopped. More on that another day.

We helped Gramma with the afghan she’s been working on for about a year now. It’s Anya’s rainbow blanket! We bought the yarn around Christmas of 2010, and Gramma’s been crocheting squares ever since. I was supposed to help with this project, but my squares weren’t. Christmas of 2011, we figured out we needed more squares, so Gramma bought more yarn and crocheted more and then POOF! Now all that’s left is to sew all the squares together. I’d help ya, Ma, I really would, but, um, I have 150 fair items to finish. Sorry!

The highlight of the trip? Mulch! I love mulch. It’s all smooshy and weed killy. One afternoon my mom noticed the neighbors were having some trees taken down, so she did what she does (talk to people!) and by the end of the day, she had three newly trimmed trees and a giant pile of mulch in her yard. I like to put down mulch. It’s sort of like mowing the lawn or vacuuming. Quick, visible change. Anya wanted to help me out (because I forced her to stay outside). She clambered up the pile and quickly declared herself, “KING OF THE MULCH!”

To wrap up the break, I got food poisoning or a stomach bug and spent a day moaning and whining and barfing. Sorry, I didn’t take any photos.

The Dolly Saga

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144 | Craft | Handicraft | Creative Toy: Completed

When I was at our local yarn store, The Woolly Jumper, buying expensive yarn for 108 | Needlework | Knitting | Infant’s Set, Anya saw a kit for a knitted, felted dollie (Knitted Felted Kuku Doll – “Ella”) The kits were put together very cutely, and displayed way down low where little hands could easily pick them up. Anya had to have one. She picked her favorite one up and carried it around the store. When I told her we were just there for some yarn, she was heartbroken. And determined. While I was chatting with the yarn lady and another customer, Anya clutched the doll kit to her chest and raced for the door. After explaining how we don’t take things from a store without buying them because that is wrong and is called stealing and yes the police will give you a ticket, I said that thing parents often say in December when their kid wants something the parent isn’t going to buy: Maybe Santa will bring it for Christmas. Well, Santa must have heard because the dolly showed up under the tree at Christmas. (I’d like to have a word with Santa about that because while it was a gift for Anya, it was a project for me. Shouldn’t Santa have made up the kit before delivering it??)

The doll knit up quickly, but I hit a snag. About one third through the second arm, I ran out of yarn. I was visiting my parents in Georgia, so I couldn’t just dash over to The Woolly Jumper. I googled yarn shops in the area and found one, but it was closed that day. (Why had I never thought to look for a yarn store there before??) I tried finding a match at Michael’s (HAHA). I thought about giving Anya a doll with only one arm, but she already has one of those, and it seems to make her a bit sad. So, I did what Andy would do, and I wrote a forlorn email to the Dolly Mamas (who made the kit). They wrote back right away, asked for my address, and put some more yarn in the mail. They even offered to send it super-fast-mail, but I told them not to worry about that.

I finished up the knitting and prepped the doll for felting, but then Anya saw her and grabbed her and ran off shouting, “DOLLY!” For a while, I wondered if Anya would let me felt her. She finally did this weekend. The felting went quickly, and after the doll dried (wet wool smells far too much like cat poo), I needle felted a face, and now the doll is done.

175 | Craft | Art | Drawing, Ink/Pen: Completed

I already posted this picture, but I forgot to say that it was a Fair item.