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Always room for one more

By Robin Dearing
Thursday, December 21, 2006

We've all been pretty sad over the passing of our dear kitty. But I was surprised at how hard it hit Margaret. She took the news a lot harder that I imagined. She's an emotional, sentimental little girl who, like her mama, easily finds the tragedy in such events. We talked a lot about the cycle of life and how death plays an evitable role. Again, Margaret amazed me at how she seemed to grasp these difficult concepts and even seemed to be comforted by them. Even though we were all getting along fine and coping with our grief, Bill and I couldn't leave well enough alone. Last Saturday we added to this little bundle of fur to our family: Frieda, Robin.jpg Her name if Frida Kahlo (let me correct that, Frida Mary Kahlo — Margaret insisted that the kitten have the name Mary somewhere in her name). She's been a most delightful distraction. She's two pounds of vim and vigor and embodies all those things that kitten are: cute, little, fearless, playful, goofy, uncoordinated ... I could go on. But as much as Bill and I have delighted in our new little furball, we've enjoyed watching Margaret take care of her even more. Margaret has taken the lead on the kitten care with exuberance. Whenever I thought it was time to feed Frida, Mar would jump and shout, "I'll do it, because it's my responsibility." We never suggested that it was her responsibility, but were pleased at her newfound sense of duty. She even volunteered to clean out the kitty's litter box. First, I had to explain the importance of cleanliness when dealing with cat boxes and then stress repeatedly that one should never, ever use one of our tablespoons for such an activity. Fortunately, Frida is an incredibly social little thing and is most happy when she's in someone's lap either napping or enjoying a good book. Mar, Frieda.jpg It's great to have a distraction from my grief over losing my companion of 12 years, but it's even better to see that my daughter — at 6-years-old — has developed tenderness and a sense of responsibility. 3 comments

Pre-dawn Awakenings

By {screen_name}
Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Maui wowie! It was great! And sunny and warm and beachy-keen. As I look out my window with snow pouring down and covering up my car and everything else I wonder, “Why am I here and not there?” Actually, as awesome as it was, thank you Dan, I was ready to come home at the end of a week because yes, I missed my son. I suffer no delusions that he missed me too, but I like to think he thought of me fondly once or twice while I was gone - in between spending some quality time with his dad who got to be the full-time chief cook and bottle washer and homework hound for the week. On another topic. Occasionally, just before I am fully awake in the morning, thoughts will drift through my semi-conscious mind. They are like waking-dreams and I’ve learned that there are important messages in them. This morning I woke to some internal voice asking me how I would describe, from a mother’s point of view, what teenage boys are like. Loud, large, and messy. That’s not very positive. Hmm, you’re right. Big-eaters? Try harder. Intense, swaggering, passionate, moody. What else? Struggling, adventurous, competitive, blooming. You’re getting there. Mercurial, exaggerated, expansive. And expensive. Not bad. Keep thinking positive! And have a great day! I have a very friendly conscience. And I have been thinking about it. How can you describe a teenager? They’re all about everything one minute and all about everything else the next minute. They make you laugh and they break your heart. They make you think about your self at that age and how wonderful and dreadful it is. They make you realize that nothing, and everything, has changed since you were in high school. They make you realize that they have to face a big, scary world that seems way bigger and scarier than ever. But they’re brave, and smart and resourceful. And since they’re teenagers and know everything, we “old people” need to listen to their ideas. Because they don't know about failure yet. They’re truly exasperating and awesome creatures. Now you got it! 2 comments

Practice makes pretty close to perfect

By Robin Dearing
Tuesday, December 19, 2006

It was just five months ago that Margaret started taking piano lessons. When her teacher told us in August that Margaret would be playing Christmas songs in the holiday recital held every year, we were skeptical. I remember snarking to Bill, "I can only imagine what that's going to sound like." But over these few months, Margaret has diligently practiced every day — some days she practiced with joy in her heart and others she played through tears of anger and frustration shooting deadly looks at her mean, old mom who shackled her to her keyboard until her lesson was complete. But I made one thing abundantly clear, piano lessons are her choice. If she doesn't want to take lessons, she doesn't have to. But if I'm gonna be shelling out my hard-earned cash, she was going to practice. Every time I've given her the ultimatum of "practice or no lessons," she always picks to practice. What I didn't realize when she began taking lessons was the amount of parental oversight that is involved. Not only has Margaret learned to read music and play the piano, but I've learned to read music and play the piano, despite the fact that I never touch the keys. I know the proper hand and finger placement, I know the names of the keys and I know the difference between quarter, whole and eighth notes. I've stood at the keyboard and helped guide her through her lessons for, on average, an hour a day, every day for the last five months .... phew, no wonder I'm tired. But it has been worth every minute. She is progressing so fast now that I can barely keep up. She keeps having to correct me when I'm trying to help her. I'm becoming useless to her — except for the constant stream of encouragement that Bill and I provide. So as December approached, Margaret began to play Christmas songs and I was amazed at the beauty of her playing. She and her teacher selected two solo pieces and one duet for her to perform in the recital. She played those songs over and over and over and she knew them well. But we were all a bit nervous on the day of her recital. Bill and I sat in the pews of the Methodist Church and awaited Margaret's first public performance. I could tell that she was scared. She'd had a bad experience with her singing solo in her kindergarden graduation and was a little gun shy. The students played in order of age with the youngest going first. Margaret is the youngest. She was dwarfed by the gleaming, black grand piano. I sat with baited breath as she sat down before the keys. If you are interested in seeing how she played, you can click here to see a video of her performance. (Oh, during Mar's second piece you'll see the reporter from Channel 5 News park herself right in front of Bill. So there's a couple seconds of the back of her head followed by some gripping video of the church's carpet before Bill got repositioned — it'll make you wonder why Bill didn't become a professional cameraman.) 4 comments

Weaning

By Richie Ann Ashcraft
Monday, December 18, 2006

I never thought I could breastfeed for a whole year! It seems like such a long time to have milk coming out of my chest. But, I did it among the other many things I didn't think I was capable of....like never sleeping. Being that Soren is six weeks away from the big #1, I thought weaning should be on the parenting agenda. He nurses only three times; right before bed, ALL night long, and first thing in the morning. I thought we should probably start by eliminating the All night long feeding. First, I bought a bag of disposable diapers for him to wear to bed. I know...the shame of it. But, cloth just wasn't cutting it at night. He's wet and he can feel he's wet. He'd wake up soaking at least three times a night and each time he woke he thought he needed fed. That had to stop. We just had to tough out the other nighttime squalls. I know, we've tried this before but our success rate was hit and miss. This time we figured it out.....a pact between parents that no matter what, no matter how tired, no matter how loud, no matter how our heartstrings hurt....we would not get him out of his bed. Three nights with the pillow over our heads and we have success. He sleeps All night long. So much so that now I check him to make sure he's okay and put the blanket on him. Last night I didn't hear a peep from him. And daddy and I are getting the best sleep we've had in a long time. Two more feedings to go and those I hear are the hardest to quit. I think I'll start with the pre-bed nursing as it seems the one he'll most likely give up easily. The nurse at my office suggests supplementing with a little formula at meal times to make sure he's getting all the iron he needs. Seems when they say 1 year before cow's milk they mean Exactly one year. Not a week too soon!! I'm hoping the weaning process goes slowly and smoothly over the next couple of months. I find myself sad to be giving it up but relieved of the burden at the same time. 2 comments

Lookit mah squirrel

By Richie Ann Ashcraft
Thursday, December 14, 2006

Note: Richie organized the following transcript of our iChat conversation and added her editorial comments. My comments are in italics. --robin The Daily Sentinel is a great place to work not only because of our exemplary staff but also because it can be a lot of fun. Ask any employee and they will tell you that it is the people they work with that make the high stress world of a daily newspaper tolerable. We have numerous gadgets and the latest software at our fingertips to keep us entertained so you just Richie: never know what sort of hijinx will occur next. One day a morphed coworker's face appears by the water fountain or a picture of a red faced baboon might grace the back door. I snuck up on Robin and snapped this picture of her staying cool under pressure: robin.jpg (This is not a good picture of me. It looks like a photo of my face was slapped on the side of a baked ham.) Later we had this conversation about a fellow coworker and his new squirrel which he dug out of my boss's dumpster yesterday. Rendezvous IM with Robin Dearing 2:17 PM Robin: I've got a good question. Richie: k Robin: So, Richie, what's up with Daniel's squirrel and why won't you look at it? Richie: um Robin: Wait. Richie: daniel is always trying to get me to look at stuff that Robin: wait Robin: Never mind. Richie: wait Robin: You're good. I thought my question was revealing too much too early. Richie: k Richie: take 2 Richie: snap Robin: Hey Richie. Richie: yes robin? Robin: What's up with Daniel and his giant squirrel? Richie: uh Richie: i don't know Richie: he wanted it Robin: (remember be edgy) Richie: oh yeah edgy Richie: wait Richie: k Richie: take 3 Richie: snap Robin: Hey Richie (phone, hang on) Robin: K. I'm back. Robin: Hey Richie. Richie: yes robin Robin: What's up with Daniel's big squirrel? Richie: Daniel has a big squirrel? Robin: (OH I agree) bubbles.jpg Richie: Meanwhile back in richie's cube Richie: um Richie: I saw that big squirrel but I didn't look at it Robin: You saw it but you didn't look at it. Richie: even though he yelled out "Hey richie come look at my big ‘ol squirrel Richie: wait Richie: take 4 Richie: snap Richie: K. Richie: so daniel calls me and says: Richie: not hello or hey richie Richie: just hey bring me that big squirrel Richie: so i hauled it down to him Robin: he should fetch his own big squirrel. Richie: i know Richie: then he set it on his desk and yelled out Richie: "hey Richie....wanna see my big squirrel???" Richie: and I said Robin: Did you look at his big squirrel? Richie: not unless it's packing big nuts (Do squirrels pack their nuts? In their mouth or something?) Richie: no i didn't look at his squirrel or his nuts Richie: what kinda lady do you think i am? Robin: That's probably a good idea. Richie: did you look at it? Robin: I don't think co-workers are allowed to show each other their squirrels — nuts or not. Richie: Naw, I avoid big squirrels whenever possible. Richie: Especially at work. Robin: me too Richie: and i don't look at them either Robin: That's a good policy. Yes, that's an actual conversation. Hey, whatever gets you through the day right? Here is the coworker who has an actual squirrel that used to reside in my boss's trash now on his desk. We are supposed to be cleaning not dumpster diving. squirrel.jpg (Yes, he is blushing. I guess that's what happens when he invites coworkers to lookit his squirrel.) 3 comments

No means No Little Dude!

By Richie Ann Ashcraft
Thursday, December 14, 2006

Today at lunch my baby threw his first full-fledged tantrum. He kept putting his grubby post-lunch fingers where they should not be as I was trying to wet a washcloth to clean him up with. "No Soren..." I said firmly as I lifted him to a safer place across the living room. I walked back to the kitchen. He crawled a beeline right back to the offending object. "No!!! That's not for you," I said as I lifted him back to the safer location. This time he protested by wriggling and squirming. Again with the thunk thunk of hands and knees locomotion. Sigh. "I said NO!" and he was airlifted to the couch again. This time with that annoying whining noise "AAAAaHHHHHHH" coming out of his mouth and his head leaned way back over my arm. Thunk-thunk again in a hurried baby fashion. "No!" If anything you have to give me points for being consistent. This time I just sat on the couch and watched his open defiance as he crawled back. "I said NO!" this time tapping his offensive hand to get his attention and moved him back to the center of the room. Where he crumbled into a screaming mess. I sat on the couch and watched with my best mom is the boss face. He watched me as he cried dryly. Then he banged his head a few times really really hard on the floor. He looked up to see what my reaction to that would be. I sat stony faced but in my head I thought "Oh my....he's throwing a tantrum. That was pretty funny. I bet it hurt. Don't laugh out loud. Stay poker faced. This doesn't bother you at all. I can't believe he's 10 months and already testing me. " He rolled around on the floor for a few more seconds. Then he beelined back to the off limits area. But this time he crawled a wide circle in front of it. Then another. He slowed down as he came near his object of desire looking at me questionally each time. When he came near I said "No Soren." He smiled sheepishly like his intentions were innocent. "That little %$^&," I thought "Don't smile. Don't Smile. Man, he's cute." Then he went to play with his pony as if nothing had happened. 7 comments

Bingus of the Wee Bings (1994-2006)

By Robin Dearing
Wednesday, December 13, 2006

"Um, Mama, so how is Bing?' I was standing in the bathroom trying to get myself together for work. It was exactly the question that I was hoping she wouldn't ask until after school today. I tried to stifle my tears and figure out how I was going to explain that I had my sweet, old kitty put down last night. I told her that his kidneys weren't working anymore and that the doctor had to put him to sleep. "Does that mean that he's dead?" was her reply. I nodded yes. She cried but still managed to brush her teeth and get herself ready to come to my work before she headed to school. She'd be her normal self for a bit, then she'd tell me how sad she was. "I wish you'd never taken him to that place," referring to the emergency veterinary clinic I found in the yellow pages. After I explained that he was really sick and already dying, she said, "I wish you'd taken him there sooner." But the fact is that old is old and nothing can turn back the hands of time. I'd had that cat longer than I've been married to Bill (and longer than my first marriage, too). I bought Bing from a pet store in Pennsylvania not because he was so cute I had to have him, but because I knew that no one else would buy him. Pet stores that sell cats and dogs are often evil places where the animals are treated like merchandise. Bing was covered in fleas (something we, pet owners, in glorious Western Colorado have little worry over) and parrot poop as he seemed to like to hang out below the bird's cage. His fur was all matted and his head seems a couple sizes too big for his tiny body. Who was gonna spend a bunch of money on a pure-bred Persian that was all pathetic looking? Oh right, me. Bing.jpg He turned out to be the cutest little guy, even if he was timid and goofy. He never exhibited the grace and dexterity that is innate to other cats. Instead, he would fall down or get stuck. But he was sweet. And he did develop some talents. He could beg for cat treats like no other. He even learned how to scoop a treat off the coffee table with his paw and put it into his mouth. I've never had to have a pet euthanized before and it was the suckiest decision I've ever had to make. Richie and I talked this morning about the passing of her kitty who died at home in October. At home or at the vet's office, it sucks either way. I've worked in animal hospitals before. I've seen cases where owners were unwilling to accept the inevitable. They would have procedure after procedure done in order to eek out a little more time with their pet. I told myself a long time ago, that I would not do that to my pets. I wouldn't put them through costly and often futile treatments just to make myself feel better. But even having that firm conviction and knowing that his kidney failure was chronic, I couldn't tell the veterinarian that that was my decision. Thankfully she figured it out and quickly it was over. Nothing left to do now but grieve. 3 comments

Santa Baby

By Richie Ann Ashcraft
Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Saturday we loaded the kids into the car and drove to Fruita in hopes of seeing Santa without the hassle and long line. Fruita was having their Christmas celebration and Parade of Lights. It included a free Santa in exchange for canned food. I really like the idea of Santa for charity and was happy to make the short drive. I figured it could go either way...he could smile happily or he could cry. Either way was just fine by me. Here's what he did: santablog.jpg It is an odd tradition that parents bundle up their children to get a pic of them with a man in red suit. No wonder they are scared. What other time of the year would we just plunk our kids down on some strangely dressed man's lap, laugh as they cry, then take their picture? It's weird and they know it. Here are pics of other kids crying on Santa's lap. It shouldn't be so funny this annual holiday torture but somehow it brings sick joy to parents around the world. As always we'd love to see your kids with Santa. Email pics to Robin Dearing and we'll post them daily. 2 comments

And they didn’t have a phone?

By Robin Dearing
Monday, December 11, 2006

I remember being asked, "And they didn't have a phone?" more than once by my parents while I was a teenager. That question is pretty much obsolete. Now the question goes, "And you didn't have your phone with you?" Which is a trick question because now cell phones have chaperone features that allow parents to find the exact location of a cell phone. The world of our teenagers just got a whole lot smaller. But that's really the trend these days, smaller. Everything is smaller, phones, computers and the world, in general (just not people or cars). With the new technology, we can stay in contact with people anywhere in the country or the world. The breadth of information available to our children is a blessing and a curse. Margaret has been using our home computer to play educational video games online (PBSKids.org, noggin.com, etc.) since she was 3 years old. computer.jpg She could open an Internet browser, go to favorites and pick the Web site she wanted even before she could read. She knew the giant blue "e" would get her to Web. From there she could use her knowledge of the alphabet to get where she wanted to go. Now she finds Web addresses on toy boxes, on television and on candy wrappers, which she diligently transcribes into her browser and navigates sites with little help from us. This is great in that she can learn more about the things that interest her. But it's scary because of all of the information out there that is not appropriate for children. She could easily stumble upon a site that contains images that could shatter her cocoon of innocence. We do what we can to protect her but watching what she does and where she goes on the Web, but it never feels like enough. I guess that is the moral behind the story of parenting; it never feels like you can do enough. 1 comments

Over the River and through the Woods

By Richie Ann Ashcraft
Friday, December 8, 2006

Soren and I made the trek across the desert to see my parents and grandma last weekend. Although it's only a four hour trip, I'm ashamed to say we don't make it often enough. Soren is a great little traveler. He slept a good long stretch before needing a break. We stopped at a small town dive for lunch where he ate some burger and fries plus applesauce that I had stuffed in my purse. That's right...I carry emergency applesauce in my purse now. I really enjoyed having lunch with him. I found myself wanting to whisk him off to spend some time together. He's suffering from a bit of seperation anxiety at the moment. It took him awhile to warm up to his grandparents and great grandma (G.G.). It perhaps hurt their feelings initially but it was short lived. He showed off his new stepping skills, danced to his Rock-with-Elmo radio, and played games with them. His grandparents showed him off to anyone willing to gush over him. His G.G. tickled his belly while making this tttsss ttsss sound. I do that to him all the time and until that moment I had no idea why I do it that way. I realized it is because that is the way she tickled me. gg.jpg It's funny how I find myself drawing from my own childhood experiences as a parent. I understand now the desire to share some of my childhood memories with Soren by recreating some of my favorite moments. I watched with embarrassment as Soren pulled the lid off his snacks with his teeth and then dumped the entire contents on G.G.'s floor. Then he stuffed some contaminated morsels in his mouth. She just laughed. Had that been me as a little girl I would have been in trouble. lilhat.jpg Poor baby barely had time for a nap with all the visiting and playing that needed to get done. Everyone was sorry to see him go. I stopped again for a break and just a little bit more quality time. Did you ever notice that fast food is not for babies? I mean what can a baby eat at McDonald's? We opted for Wendy's chili since my purse was all out of applesauce. I let Soren chew crackers, play with straws, and dump the salt. When I left I tried to clean the booth up as best I could when I realized that "Oh My God! I am one of those people with KIDS!" The ones who leave huge messes for others to clean up in fast food establishments. When did that happen? On the way home I contemplated what one family friend had said to me. "May God let you borrow him a very long time." Isn't that true of grandparents and parents as well? 2 comments
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