Friday, March 22, 2013

Teddy Goes Teddina

Just three days ago, I discovered that my little Teddykins is not a boy, but a girl. I had suspected as much for a couple of weeks, but as you know, he’s a feral cat and it’s taken me months to get to the point where I can pet him and pick him up just long enough to place him in his box on the porch. Getting him to stay by me long enough to actually see his nether regions required the help of Phil’s daughter Angela. I talked to him and petted him while she stayed a few feet away from the back of him. Or her, I guess I should say.

So, we had scheduled the girly kitties of the Baker’s Dozen to be spayed at a Humane Society clinic in the area. The night before was when we discovered Teddy is really a Teddina. We set in place a plan for me to get him into one of the cat carriers the morning of the Great Spaying of 2013, and that morning I did manage, after 10 minutes, to get Teddy into the carrier. All told, we now had six cats going in for the procedure.

I could tell he wasn't thrilled with this, and honestly, I felt like I had betrayed his trust, that trust that was so hard earned. But the fact is, this had to be done. We have the Baker’s Dozen because Lucy hadn’t gotten spayed. No, we’re not responsible to do this with Teddy, since he’s not technically our cat. But he’s the cat of my heart. And not getting him spayed would mean even more cats out there. I’m sure you can imagine the potential for exponential propagation. 

Well, my sweet little Teddy went to get spayed Thursday, and yesterday he was brought home, and we had been told not to let him out, as some neighbor cat may try to mate, and rip his stitches out. Ouch! 

I know, he‘s a "she," but I'm so used to calling him "he," and besides, growing up we had a girl dog named Michael. Eh, I’ll have to ask my mom for the details, but I think she and Dad had spoken for a boy dog and already named it, and it turned out they got a girl? Something like that, and they just kept the name they had chosen. 

When Teddy came home yesterday morning, I took him into my room and let him out. Being a stray outside cat, he was petrified and ran to the most cluttered part of the room to hide. I expected this. I figured he'd be so scared that he'd just want to get alone, and he did. 

Eventually we could hear him purring, and Phil said Teddy’s motor was running. The funny thing is, Teddy’s “motor” sounds so rough, kind of like an engine that’s seen more than 200,000 miles on it. ;) It really does. And that’s just so like Teddy, my little rough tough cocoa puff, to have a gruff sounding purr. 

After a while, there was silence. I knew Teddy was sleeping. The clinic had given him pain medication that was supposed to last a couple of days, from what I heard. So I figured he’d sleep it off, and thankfully so. I don’t want to think of him being in pain. 

By nighttime, though, I was starting to worry. I had talked to Teddy all during the day, just like I had when he was outside and would show up for food, and, more recently, for my attention and affection. But since there was no response, I felt at times that I was talking to the wind. I even imagined that maybe he had somehow snuck out of the room and wasn’t even in there, careful though I was, and maybe I had been talking to myself. ;)

But around 9:00 p.m., when I stood at the end of my bed and talked to him again, holding a small bowl of kibble, which I shook to let him know by the familiar sound that I had food for him, Teddy slowly came out from behind the night stand. He looked at me for a few seconds, and then, as I held the bowl of kibble out on the bed, he jumped up onto the bed. 

But just as quickly, as I moved to set the bowl down for him, he got scared and jumped back down, running away again. Hiding from me. And that’s when I knew. Teddy and I had taken a step backwards. A giant step backwards. My heart lurched. Teddy and I had lost the trust we had gained in all the months prior to Thursday. We were like strangers who had just met. And I felt like crying.

All the ground I had gained working with him, over all those months, trying to get him to understand that I was not a threat to him, seemed for naught. He had retreated into the shadows of the area behind Phil’s bedside table, and my heart was left desolate. 

I set the little bowl full of kibble on the bed and  sat down in the bed. I talked to Teddy as I had all day; as I had each time I had gone out on the porch where he waited for me, meowing in his special rough tough cocoa puff way. But Teddy wasn’t having any of it. He backed away, and I tried to understand. 

My heart was breaking, but I tried to see things through Teddy’s eyes. He had been living in a world that had been very harsh to him. And just as he had begun to trust a human who showed nothing but careful love to him, he was pushed into a cage and had strangers handle him and eventually, he woke up in pain. Caused by humans he had barely begun to understand and trust.

So here I am, sitting in bed talking to Teddy, the sweet kitty-cat of my heart, wishing he’d heed my wishes and come out to eat the food I offer him. He’s scared. I get it; he’s too scared now, and I don’t know what’s going to happen with out fractured relationship. My heart hurts because of this, but at the same time, I can’t give up. I've invested too much into this relationship with this stray little cat, to give up now. No matter that we seem to have taken two steps back, I’m going to press forward. I love him too much. I simply love my little Teddy too much. 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

World Down Syndrome Day

Today is World Down Syndrome Day. I know, I know, there seems to be a “Day” for everything now. But this one is of special meaning to me because, as you all know, my firstborn, my Megan, has Down syndrome. She recently turned 25.

 Down syndrome, in case you don’t know, is a chromosomal anomaly, an aberration, in which there are 3 of the 21st chromosomes, or part of a third,  present in the cells of the baby; instead of each cell having 46 chromosomes, they have 47. Hence the other name for Down syndrome, Trisomy 21. 

1 1/2 years old
I won’t get into the three different types of Down syndrome (I‘ll refer to it as DS for ease here), as I’m already getting technical enough here. ;) But I will tell you that it occurs during the first cell divisions when an egg is fertilized. And because of the extra genetic material, it affects the development of the baby physically and mentally. 

There are typical characteristics of Down syndrome that most children have, but like anyone else, each baby who has it is unique and may have all, most, or even just a few of the features. Almost always, you can tell a child with DS when you see him or her, usually by the almond shaped eyes and flat nasal bridge. Heck, Megan herself recognizes other people with it all the time. 

2 1/2 years old
One thing that I would like to clear up is the frequent misconception that someone can have DS “mildly“, or “badly.” There is no such thing; you either have Down syndrome, or you do not. It’s like pregnancy; you can’t be a little bit pregnant. You’re either pregnant or you're not. What you can have in a quantitative form, is the mental retardation that having Trisomy 21 almost always causes. The degree of mental retardation can run the gamut from mild to severe; IQs can be low to average to above average. DS is one of the most frequent causes of mental retardation, but the degree to which a person has it (mental retardation) is individual. 

Caitlin 8? Megan 11?
Here is a little Down syndrome etiquette, so to speak: 

It’s okay to look, but it’s not okay to stare. 

It’s okay to let children ask why a person with DS looks different. I always think of these situations as opportunities to educate. 

If you are talking about someone who has Down syndrome, do not say things like, “ He’s a Down’s.” or “My neighbor’s daughter has a Down’s.” Our children are NOT “a Down’s.” They are children who have Down syndrome. Would you talk about a person who has cerebral palsy and say, “He’s a palsy?” No. Our children or family members who have Down syndrome are people first, and they just happen to have Down syndrome, second.

Me, Megan 10, Caitlin 7
Having DS does not define who they are. It’s a big part of who they are, and it certainly impacts their lives. But that’s the point; it’s a part of who they are. DS is a part of who my daughter Megan is, just like loving babies is a part of who she is, or not liking my fried chicken livers is part of who she is. It’s not her entire being. I have Tourette’s syndrome, but that isn’t all of me; I am so much more. Megan has Down syndrome, but she is so much more.

Playing with her people.
Megan is sweet and kind. She loves to make things for people, like crafts or colored pictures. She loves people and is friendly as can be; she’s never met someone who is not a friend. ;) Megan loves God and has an amazing ability to remember people in prayer and what their needs are when she beseeches the Lord. 

She loves cooking with me, loves helping me take care of our home, and most people would be amazed at what she is able to do in that regard. 

Megan loves to color and paint. She loves to do crafts, any crafts! And when she does, she always wants to give them away as presents for people. 

Megan put a mobcap
on Pepper Kitty!
Megan loves to play games, and she loves to play cards, as we all know! (see blog post House of Cards ) She loves her American Girl doll and she loves her baby dolls. Most of all she loves her Fisher Price Loving Family dollhouse people. She plays with them everyday, and has at least forty, all of whom she has named. 

Megan has a great sense of humor, and when she’s not deliberately making a funny, she’s oh so innocently sending us into fits of laughter. Like the time I made baked chicken leg quarters for supper and a few minutes after I had given her plate to her, she brought it to Phil, saying, “Somehow this leg and thigh are stuck together.” We just about wet ourselves laughing about that! And he cut the leg and thigh apart for her. 

In one of her homeschool group
plays: The Secret Garden.
There is so much more to Megan that I could tell you, but it would be enough to fill a book and then I’d have to charge you for it to cover the costs. ;) Suffice it to say for now, she is just such a character, a delight to have as my daughter, and a blessing in our lives. 

When she was born and I was soon told that she has Down syndrome, I loved her even more. Having Down syndrome isn’t a tragedy; it just changes things somewhat. 

I always said that raising Megan was like taking the scenic route in life. It’s definitely slower, but that allows us to see and experience many things that we otherwise wouldn’t had she been an average child.

Megan set to exercise with the
Wii. Is this regulation uniform? ;)

I’m so glad I have Megan. I’m glad there is a World Down Syndrome Day, so we can help others to know and learn about it. We can help people understand that these are people first. Their individualism, their likes and dislikes, their strengths and weaknesses, their talents and idiosyncrasies, make up who they each are, the wonderful people they each are. And *that* is something to celebrate. 

I love you Megan Heather!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Story of Teddy

Today marks another turning point in my relationship with Teddy. He’s the stray cat who’s adopted us that I talked about last month (Kibbles & Bits of My Morning), and he has moved up in the ranks to become one of my favorites. I know we’re not supposed to have favorites, but…oh wait, that’s our children. Nevermind.

Teddy, who I affectionately call Teddykins, is definitely up there with my other two favorites, Pepperkitty and Tum Tum, my autistic cat. Pepperkitty being number one, of course. And the reasons Teddy wiggled his way into my heart of hearts are many, but mostly because he’s the underdog, the little engine that could, the one at the bottom of the piggy pile who managed to scrabble his way out.

Teddy started showing up at our house sometime late last year. He kept a very safe distance from all of us, the Baker’s Dozen and the family. We shrugged him off, thinking he was some neighbor’s cat just passing through the yard. But there he was, everyday, and pretty soon he started coming up onto the front porch. 

You could tell he was hungry, and he was very dirty. The white on him was more like a dingy cream color, and he looked unkempt. About the fifth day after he started coming here, we set a bowl of kibbles out for him on the porch, near the edge since we could see how skittish he was, and he dove at it. 

But what he did was run and grab a kibble in his mouth, run off the porch about four feet away, and eat it with his back to us. Then he came back to the porch and grabbed another kibble and did the same. We went about our business and left him to get some food in him. That he was starving was painfully obvious.

This little dance went on for days, until finally Teddy started staying on the porch, right by the edge, while he ate. We put out food and water when we saw him there under the porch swing, and then went into the house to watch him at the storm door. Within a couple of weeks, Teddy was feeling comfortable enough to stay and eat while we were at least four feet away from him, a boundary we respected for the simple joy of seeing a helpless creature wounded in spirit nourish himself and, hopefully, learn to trust.

As the weeks went by, Teddy became more comfortable with us, and it became a challenge of sorts, with me especially, to somehow make this cat know that we wouldn’t hurt him; that we only wanted to care for him. So every time I fed him, I talked to him, and always made sure I moved very slowly. The smallest of movements made too quickly scared him into bolting. But if I was careful, talking to him gently, he was calm. Cautious, but calm.

By this time, I had already named him Teddy, because with the white around his mouth and that black nose of his, he looks like a teddy bear. Teddy was clearly becoming more comfortable with us, and then came that morning last month when, as I talked to him and filled his water and food dishes, he started talking to me, and stood right next to me. I loved hearing his little meow. But what I loved even more was that he actually let me pet him. I was thrilled. Amazed, and so very thrilled. 

Since then, I’ve petted Teddy many times, and the past couple weeks it’s been daily now. I’m actually the only one he doesn’t bolt from. He’s still somewhat skittish around the rest of the family, except for Megan, who has taken to using my approach, talking gently to him and moving slowly. 

Two weeks ago, Teddy let me pick him up. We put an open-ended cardboard box on the porch by the door, underneath the lawn chair, and laid a towel in it for warmth and comfort. Teddy had started laying in it, and I’d place his food bowl in the box, in front of him. With winter still here, the cement floor of the porch is so cold, and my nurturing instincts just want him to be warm while he eats. 

But on that particular day, Teddy had stepped out of it while I was filling his food bowl, and stood next to me to be petted. It was a bitterly cold day, and all I could think of was his wee little jellybean toes on that ice cold cement. So I reached down and gently picked him up and placed him in the box. And wonder of wonders, Teddy let me! He continued eating, and I petted him a little more, then let him be. 

I’ve always tried to respect Teddy’s need for space, the protective wall he’s put up between himself and the rest of the world. It’s a wall he’s put up because he had to, simply to survive. He hisses at most any cat who comes near him, not because he’s a nasty little creature, but because he’s learned, up till now, that he is alone on this earth and he only has himself to protect him and make sure he gets what he needs. 

I’ve been working towards “un-convincing” him of that. Day by day, little by little, showing him that he can trust me, and that I love him. Up till now, it’s obviously been a one-sided relationship. He comes to me because he knows I have food and water. 

But today…today when I saw him sitting on the lawn chair in the cold and got his food, I started petting him before I placed his food dish next to him on the pad of the chair. And he was pushing his little head against my hand, truly wanting my touch. I started scritching him on his neck, and he leaned into it. I took my hand away, wanting to respect his space, but Teddy didn’t eat his food. 

Instead, he put his paws up on the arm of the chair and pushed his head into my hand. So I petted him again, doing those full body pets from the top of his head to the tip of his tail. Over and over, talking to him the whole while. After about a full minute, I stopped again, thinking surely now he’ll want to get down to the business of eating. 

But I was wrong again. He didn’t want me to stop. He wanted me to touch him, to pet and scritch him. Teddy didn’t just want to eat; he wanted my attention. Teddy came to me for affection! 

So I obliged him, delightedly, for a few more minutes, giving him the love and attention he obviously needs and now, apparently, wants. My little “ruff tuff coco-puff” isn’t so tough after all. ;)

Friday, March 8, 2013

A House of Cards

Playing cards with Megan is always an experience. You just never know what’s going to come out of her mouth. Today, in between cleaning the bathroom and getting lunch, Megan and I sat down to play Go Fish. It started like this: Megan asked me: Do you have a queen?

Me: Nope. Go fish in the ocean. Do you have an eight?

Megan: Nope! Go fish in the waterfall! --giggling hysterically--

Me: Okay, your turn. --giggling right along with her--

Megan: Do you have a ten?

Me: Yep. -hands it over-

Megan: Sweet niblets!

Me: You get to go again.

Megan: Do you have a queen?

Me: Nope. Go fish in a mud puddle. Do you have a five?

Megan: In your dreams! --giggling all over again--

Me: You goofball. Your turn.

Megan: Do you have a queen?

Me: No. Go fish in the sea. Do you have…an eight?

Megan: I sure do. --hands it over--

Me: Thank you.

Megan: Glad to be of service.

Me: Do you have a seven? --busting up laughing--

Megan: Nope. Do you have a queen?

Me: I just picked it up! --hands over the queen--

Megan: BUSTED! --fist pumps--

By now I’m almost laughing too hard to play anymore. Yep, you just never know what’s going to come out of her mouth. ;)

Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Rabbiteer

The other night as I was cooking in the kitchen with Megan, Caitlin came in to chat. Going over to pet one of the cats, she pulled a “rabbit ears” on him, and it just begged taking the picture. 

Megan and Caity have been doing rabbit ears on each other for years. I can’t tell you how many photos I’ve taken with them doing this, and it’s so quick and so frequent that I hardly even notice it anymore. It’s actually become a classic little trick of Caity’s when she’s goofing around, not even a camera in sight. 

She’s like a stealth ninja sneaking up on people and  suddenly you just know her fingers are above your head and she’s grinning. Phil calls her a Rabbiteer. ;)

Meg wanted me to take a picture of her with a cup-o-soup, and Caity snuck herself in. 

Rabbit ears on me. See how sassy she is??

This is from the other night. Spooky glowing cat eyes!

With a chalupa. Nothing is safe from her rebellious fingers!

Not even my bedpost! 

But in the end, Megan triumphantly gets her. Go Meggie!