Apr 29, 2013

Mine More & More...

I was taking stock while standing in line at the post office today. My two youngers each had a birthday this month, meaning it's been more than a year now since my second (and final) home birth. Nearly 10 months since we left Cheyenne. 2 days shy of 9 months since we moved into our house in lovely Ashburn. His Highness has one month remaining of kindergarten, and next year it's off to full days in first grade (!).

We've been at our church now for 6 months. Getting more glimpses of each others' stories amid wrangling crazies, and teachable moments, and all the stuff of have-tos before we can do the get-tos. I'm known as the mom who shows up to school functions with the cute baby girl on her back...except that cute baby girl wants to get down and run around more & more these days.

And it occurred to me, standing in line there at the post office, that I was standing in my post office. That I'm starting to say things like my church and my town. We have our doctors and so on, our favorite haunts for shopping and eating, and places where the boys do their activities. And since I do drop-off and pick up every weekday, and run across the grounds several times per week, and try to keep the cat from going in the big green doors (another post coming soon), that it's OK if I call it our school sometimes.

There's still plenty I miss; there always is. There's still the reality of  next year at this time, which I have to consciously and deliberately (yet gently) set aside, lest I throw my hands up and decide that it's not worth the work of it, to make the effort of reaching out and knowing people--

Deep breath. Where was I?

Yes. It was a good moment, there in the post office. I am thankful...

Apr 6, 2013

Mr. Nipples Begins at the Public School...

Walking home from school one day last fall, a neighbor kid told me "Nipples came to our school today, and we had to go inside!" 

And I thought, "Oh, crap."

So as the newly-appointed publicity director for Nipples, I emailed the school.  This is what proactive publicity directors do so that they can minimize the need for damage control down the road.  An excerpt of the email read as follows:

"...Some of my neighbor kids were telling me that my cat has shown up at school, and that they had to then go inside...so I figured I'd better get the whole story. We live right nearby, and my cat does roam around this area (neighborhood, school, nature center, etc)--does it cause a problem for him to show up at the school when the kids are outside? I'm not quite sure how I'd go about keeping him away, but thought I'd better check on it anyway..."

I reassured them that Nipples was up to date on all of his vaccinations and overall kitty health measures.  I also may have promised to have a stern talk with the cat if he became a disruption to the education of young minds.

This resulted in a cheerful and diplomatic reply from the principal, who assured me that my cat was not responsible for hundreds of young children losing their recess.  He did say that they discouraged the students from touching any outdoor animal while at school, and that he would reiterate the policy with teachers, so that they wouldn't feel the need to bring their classes inside.  He also mentioned that he has an indoor/outdoor cat at home, and understood my plight as publicity director (my words; not his), although he hadn't, to date, received notice of his cat showing up at their neighborhood elementary school. He didn't say anything about my promising to talk sternly to my cat, which I took as tacit appreciation for my strict standards of kitty behavior.

Things continued swimmingly over the next week or so. I would see Nipples lounging/skulking just off campus sometimes as we walked to and fro. At recess time he would come by to say hello to the kids. From the kids' descriptions, Nipples would jet out from the woods and take a whack at kick balls & such, which I thought was brilliant and daring for a cat of 12 lbs.  And while I understand that some kids have allergies and fears and whatnot, I thought it mildly tragic that the teachers had to tell the kids to "Get away from the cat!" After all, playing kickball with a cat at recess is the stuff childhood memories are made of. 

Nipples also expanded his notoriety throughout the neighborhood.  We soon connected with the neighbor who had taken him to the vet ("Oh, that's your cat??"). They live on the other side of the school from us, and she was (rightfully) concerned with ticks and so forth.  I reassured her that we were doing everything we could to minimize those things.  And then we got to have this exchange one day:

Her: "I have to tell you, my kids kept calling your cat Nipples and I had to correct them and say 'No, it's Nibbles.'"

Me: "No, it's Nipples."

Her: "Hm. Maybe I'll just have them keep calling him Nibbles."

Me: "I usually call him Nips for short. Most of the time I can't bring myself to yell 'NIPPLES!' throughout the neighborhood when I'm looking for him."

Her: "Oh! I thought for sure it was Nibbles because I thought, 'who on earth would name their cat Nipples.'"

Me: "And now you know. The Cat Daddy would name his cat Nipples."

It was in that moment that I began to appreciate the truth about my cat's name.  The Cat Daddy has always maintained that naming one's cat Nipples serves quite usefully as a people-filter.  We like to think we make friends fairly easily, but as with anyone we gravitate toward folks with certain personality traits, senses of humor, etc. There are those who hear Nipples' name and respond along the lines of "That's awesome/hilarious/crazy!" and there are those whose response is on the order of a wince or mild flinch, and tactful evasion of any further discussion.  In the latter case, perhaps it's good to know up front and take the pressure off of any sort of expectations in the relationship. Not that they are bad or that we are bad; just that we probably won't be, um, bosom friends (thank you, Anne Shirley).

And so Nipples had a growing understanding with those residing in his domain.  We enjoyed a little bit of minor celebrity when we were out & about with a cat following us.  Strangers would (and still do) comment, "Remarkable, it's almost as if that cat is following you," and it was really fun to say, "Actually, he's my cat.  He walks with us sometimes." It was a nice little niche of equilibrium in our neighborhood society.

For me, anyway.  Nipples of course is about anything but equilibrium, and one doesn't earn the title of "Most Interesting Cat In the World" without shaking things up a bit...