Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Happy Snap

Here, albeit somewhat belated, is Pixie and the Pixettes. I can only spot four in this piccy, but I assure you there are five!

They will be two weeks old tonight and in that time have opened their eyes (on the weekend), doubled in size and started wobbling around a bit in their box.

The funniest thing about wobbling around in their box with their eyes open is that they have started to play. The funniest thing about that goes with a script from me a little like this...

"Oh, there's one of my siblings, looking all peaceful. I think I'll go and jump on them!"
Kitten begins wobbly trek of 10cm to where vulnerable sibling lies, blissfully unaware.
After 5 cm:
"Damn it! My hind legs can't keep up with the rest of me!
"Geez this slope is tough!"
"I'm sure my head is getting bigger as I walk. It's sure getting harder to hold up!"
As they make thier destination, all they can do is collapse onto their fellow-kitten with their mouth open.

Amidst the gnawing and waving of paws that follows, one invariably ends up on its back and takes several minutes to right itself again, all the time flailing around like Kafka's bug in Metamorphosis.

They seem to like me and sometimes even wobble over to me. A couple have started to purr every now and then and I've been gummed a few times. Pixie seems to have temporarily given up on bringing them to bed with me (two nights and counting) and we are a most contented household.

Kitten-TV rules in this house!

Saturday, August 20, 2005

The Night Pixie Popped

N.B. This post contains things that may induce an 'Ewww'-response. Read on at your own risk. The remainder of these italics contain a spoiler for those who intend to read on. For the squeamish, a summarised version is that my cat had kittens, got an infection and is now being treated. The kittens are cute. (Of course!)

Tuesday night, when I wrote that Pix was in labour, I don't think I really believed it was happening. It seemed all rather indefinite, like if you scrunched your eyes up and looked at her at an angle of 330 degrees for long enough, yeah, maybe she was. When I arose on Wednesday morning, you could have adopted aforementioned posture for as long as you liked and detected nothing. Grrr.

On Wednesday night, she was behaving as she had on Tuesday night, once more, and I started to think this was just some new night-time behaviour designed to taunt me and my lack of control. No fun. In a huff, I went off to bed and didn't give it another thought. (Okay, I don't recall being in a huff, but it does sound effective, methinks.)

During the night, the little minx came a-visiting me in bed. I assumed this was for a cuddle and so let her poke her head under the covers to cuddle against my chest. It's not normally tolerated behaviour, but it was cold and I wasn't going to emerge to pat her. She there we were, spooning, as I sleepily stroked her down the length of her back.

On about the third stroke, I froze in that awful shock of instant wakefulness. Something was wet. (Go on, say it. Ewww!) I quickly turned on the lamp and looked down to find some markings on my sheets. In a lightning move, I grabbed my robe and got it underneath her. Five minutes later, with a few pants and a couple of pained miaows (not much - sorry Violet!) the first kitten was delivered in my armpit.

Yes! My armpit!

Over the next 90 minutes or so, another 4 kittens were delivered, along with placentas, which Pixie gratefully devoured. She stayed in the crook of my arm throughout, at several points resting her head on my bicep and bracing her hind paws aginst my stomach as she bore down. I guess this is what a father feels like. It was gross, sure, but also fascinating and touching. This cat had been with me for less than three weeks and yet the place she chose to be - the safest and warmest place she assessed - was with me. That's pretty incredible, you've gotta admit.

So, the Pixettes were doing well. One is a pale silver tabby with a fine stripe, another is a typical silver tabby with a very fine stripe and there's one that is silver tabby on its legs, belly and mask but black/charcoal elsewhere. Very cute and unusual. The other two are more typical tabbies, but I'm starting to think they have more grey in them than I thought at first. One has white socks and so all are distinguishable. No-sox and Typical silver were fighting hard over a nipple this afternoon, so yes, personalities are starting to show. Sox is adventurous and so on.

So, all were well, tolerated being moved out of my bed so I could get cleaning and were feeding nicely. At about their 24 hour mark, Pixie decided they should all come back to bed with me - I will learn to close my bedroom door - and I had to put my foot down. The previous night's sleep deprivation was sorely felt. Back to their box they all went.

The next afternoon, Pixie was behaving strangely: panting and occasionally hissing faintly. As looking at her in puzzlement wasn't making much difference, I decided to ring the vet.

Now, I was very nervous about doing this. Well, I wasn't nervous about using the phone or anything, but I was concerned about looking an utter fool. As a result, my patter went (embarrassingly) a bit like this. "Hi, I'm sorry if I'm wasting your time with a stupid question. You know I'm probably just a nervous first-time mother, but..." Okay, I know I'm not the mother, but it was quicker to say than the real situation and they knew what I meant...

Anyway, before we knew it, we were packed up to go to the vet: Pickwick, Pixie and the Pixettes. I was still quite sure I'd be told it was nothing and look like a slightly poorer utter fool. Everyone cooed over the kittens as required whilst the vet clicked her tongue at Pix and hauled her off for x-rays. Something was in there that shouldn't be and was causing problems.

As it turned out, it was not another kitten (phew!) but her uterus had not contracted as it aught have. I didn't know that cats regained their figures immediately (sorry again, Violet) so hadn't been alarmed by her still swollen stomach as I aught have been. Instead of being all little and taught, it was distended and filled with pus. (Another Ewww moment) X-rays don't show if it's because she didn't pass all the placentas - I wasn't exactly counting - or if a freak bacteria caught her out. Her temperature was up and she was still bleeding, which the vet assured me I wouldn't have noticed as she would have cleaned herself regularly.

So, you go to the vet and everything's hunky-dory. Right? Not necessarily. The next 24 hours were critical. She was right to go home with an injection there and then, and antibiotics twice daily for the next four weeks, but she could still go 'toxic', requiring instant surgery that could interrupt lactation. Yikes. Bottle feeding five kittens every two hours! The other problem was that I was going to spend a lot of the next 24 hours out of the house. J was promptly recruited and trained to look for signs of toxicity and given instructions about the vet, who was on standby, more-or-less. She was more than happy to do so cos it meant she got to look at the kittens a lot.

As you may have predicted, she made it through the 24 hour mark and slimmed down a lot in that time. That's Pixie, by the way. Not J or the vet. A miracle! She has learnt to hate tablets, which I suspect she'd previously had little experience with.

The real miracle is, however, the strong likelihood that, had I not adopted the preggers Pixie, she and the kittens would have perished.

And that is just too sad to contemplate.

Time to go and check on them again. :-)

How low can you go?

There is a loftier ambition than merely to stand high in the world. It is to stoop down and lift mankind a little higher.

Henry van Dyke, poet

I'm low, but I somehow don't think an offshoot of that will be to lift my fellow-folk higher. I only wish it were so.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Do I Look Haggard?

Well, I bloody well should!

A proper post will follow in order that I can regale you all with the wondrous tale of How Pixie Popped, but needless to say, she did - 5 times - and all is well.

Singlefin was off to the pub to wet their heads, I entreat you all to do the same on my behalf.


Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Watch this space

Keep it quiet, cos I don't want to freak her out or anything, but I think she's in labour!



Thursday, August 11, 2005

Losing more stuff

I just lost a post I told Singlefin I'd write about Waiting For My Cat to Explode. Hate that. Once I lost it, I also realised I'd lost my cat, the significance of which will become apparent. I promise.

'Cat?' I hear you ask. 'I thought the cat died.'

She did. In four days, it will be a year. But there's a new cat. Here are the vitals:
  • Name: Pixie
  • Breed: Domestic Shorthair (moggie)
  • Colour: Tabby
  • Age: Around about a year
  • Time she's been with me: Just under two weeks, rescued from work where she had been dumped about five months ago. I became aware of her existence two weeks before I adopted her.
  • Habits: Quite vocal, moderately playful, a lapcat, very friendly with everyone which we all know is rare, eats anything, makes one hell of a mess with her litter. I'm going to have to get one of those covered litterboxes so I'm not constantly cleaning after her.
  • Other attributes: Very, very pregnant.
Yup. Thus my alarm when I don't know where she is. She's hiding in the corner of my wardrobe right now. Needless to say I will not be letting her stay there very long. I have provided her with other birthing options that are NOT ON CARPET! and she will have to make do with one of those.

When I got her, much to the delight of the cleaners who had been feeding her and her first litter, I had no idea about queens (of the feline variety) but guessed I had maybe a month to get information and get my head around it all. I took her to the vet the next day for a check and the vet's response was, 'Wow. She's full!' and I was told to expect her to take up to two weeks, but to expect anything right now. She even checked to see if the milk was showing. She also said she was in great condition and didn't even have fleas. How lucky am I?

Nearly two weeks later, this is becoming a much-anticipated birth. I've read a lot online and know there's nothing to do but wait, but geez, I'd like this to get happening. I want the kittens to be a suitable age to leave her during the school holidays, to maximise re-homing opportunities, after which she's getting speyed and settling down to a life on my lap.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Does Loss make you a Loser?

It’s a rhetorical question, really, of the variety that has no answer rather than one that is obvious, I suspect, so don’t strain your brain too much trying to answer it.

The new Imperfect Pedant is perhaps not always going to be a place full of sunshine and witty anecdotes. Nope, I’m not a witty anecdote kind of gal these days. Sorry, but them’s the breaks.

I am currently ‘working’ through a book called Good Grief. It’s a slow process as I get to an exercise after doing some reading and find that my reaction is ‘Well, I don’t know!’ all too often. I’m not telling you this, by the way, to incite a ‘Poor Pickwick’ response. I’m telling you this cos I’m going to share some of my reflections and the learning curve I am currently on.

The first exercise in the book is for you to make a timeline of loss you have experienced in your life. The losses can be pretty basic, like moving house, or quite serious ones. The model they give is for someone my age, and they have them experiencing 12 losses. I have 32 on my line. No wonder I’m fucked. You are then instructed to do a number of things, one of which is to reflect on a particularly significant loss and I chose to reflect on my Mum’s car accident when I was seven. Readers of the old Imperfect Pedant will not be entirely new to this.

So, I wrote this:

I guess that, other than the womb-thing outlined in the book – which I just don’t get – my first loss was being hospitalized as an ill child. I don’t remember that, though, and thus I don’t feel it really worth considering. I don’t even really feel the losses of moving house and changing schools at the end of my prep year.

The first loss I can really comprehend as a loss is Mum’s accident. I know it resonates as ever since, I have been filled with a sense of dread whenever I’ve not known where someone is but I thought I should. I recall coming home to unexpectedly find Mum not home once in High School and going crying to an uncomprehending neighbour who saw me as completely irrational. The rational part of me knows that most often when people aren’t where I expect them to be, they are fine, but that rising sense of panic is as much a part of me as my hair, hands and eyes.

There were many other losses caught up in it, too. The loss of dependence in needing to help more around the house when my grandparents came to take care of us. The loss of my mother, physically, at the time and the ongoing loss of the mother I knew, replaced by the one with the high-level needs, struggling to continue being the mother she wanted to be in spite of her changed self. The loss of my father, always distant but now irrevocably so. Caught up in the needs and frustrations of his own loss, resenting this life he had been handed in an unguarded moment. A moment that should not have required guarding in an innocent world.

I guess there was a loss of identity, too, because I suddenly became the child of ‘that woman on the news'. I think of it that way as it was soon after this that I first told a lie – a small, childish, insignificant lie – perhaps in an effort to redefine the seven-year old I was.

There’s a loss of innocence in seeing your community rally around your family, feeding and transporting you; in going clothes-shopping with your father for the first time; in vomiting for the first time without your parents to comfort you; in sitting in the car for four hours, three times a week when you’re finally able to see your mother, see the bandages, staff and processes; in learning how to scrub and put on a hospital gown, hat, mask and gloves before entering that room in your Sunday best to kiss a part of your mother’s hand that was visible – a hand that was connected to her but alien in form, texture and scent. I’d never kissed anyone’s hand and was horrified by the act. There’s a loss of innocence when you realize that you can’t assume life will ever be the same again, each morning that you step away from the house on the way to school.

There was the loss of Karen; the loss of the M’s in the changes her death wrought in them; the loss of trust in the teacher who screamed at you to get your seven-year old self together that play-lunch when Karen’s funeral was held at the church over the road from school. After all, it’s wasn't like she was my sister. The loss of confidence in what was best to say and do as you met so many new situations for which you had no model.

There was the loss of routine as you were able to eat disallowed foods, watch banned television, practice piano less.

The loss echoes through the years when five years later you realized you’d lost the ability to mentally conjure her image prior to that indelible date, as thirty years later you come to realizations about its impact. Each is a fresh loss, and the simple knowledge of this makes me wonder the degree to which my life was shaped from and by that moment in 1976. I've made my choices since, but the influence on them is inescapable.

The book instructs you to identify which of your losses are unresolved and my inclination would be to say it is really only the recent deluge that needs to be dealt with, but as I continue to arrive at new realizations about old events, I wonder if they will ever be resolved or simply take their place as one of the ghosts of my past.

Hello and goodbye

Sometimes you have to say goodbye to things before you’re ready. Often it’s beyond our control, but every now and then we do get to decide. Selecting the right time then becomes the problem.

I have a non-stick frypan. Goodness knows why anyone ever makes non-stick wares because I have never known at item to remain non-stick, no matter how greatly you care for it. Of course we attempt to preserve them, soaking and easing away substances that seem to have totally bonded with the pan and trying to ignore those telltale dark patches that begin to appear as the non-stick surface starts to lift. Trying to ignore the idea of them lifting further with the next recipe and merging with it, ultimately causing you to ingest the stuff.

So one day, you say to yourself, ‘A week of soaking is enough! I’m sick of this thing sitting on my sink. The darned stuff won’t lift. Time to say goodbye Teflon, hello scourer.’

I like my frypan. I refuse to replace a pan that is essentially good, except for the propensity for foodstuffs to stick. I am not ready to say goodbye to the pan, but taking the scourer to it was indeed as sad day.

I am in a new abode and am thus trying to acquaint myself with a new oven. The previous tenants here were not gourmets, it would seem (amongst other things for which I continue to get mail from law-enforcement agencies) and totally destroyed the stove, meaning Pickwick gets a brand new one!

I hate electric hotplates but am coming to terms with juggling heating and cooling times in order to feed myself but am having something of a battle with the oven. It burns baked goods from the back, no matter how much I reduce the heat and right now I have a cake in there with a foil shield at the back to try to deflect some of the heat at that point. I hope it works! Apart from anything else, I can’t eat a whole cake by myself and I have no desire to give away cake with a burnt lid!

What kind of cake is it, Pickwick? I hear you ask.

It’s a Cardamon Coffee Cake. I’m not sure if the recipe’s from the Moosewood Cookbook or the Enchanted Broccoli Forest, but it will be one or the other (I just have it scrawled on paper in a way no-one else can follow) and it’s fantastic!

It goes like this:

1lb of butter
2 cups brown sugar
4 eggs
2 tsp vanilla essence
4 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 tbsp powdered cardamom
2 cups sour cream, yoghurt or buttermilk

¼ cup brown sugar
1 tbsp cinnamon
½ cup chopped walnuts

Heat your oven (not mine) to 350 F. Grease a large cake tin as this is a large cake.
Combine the ingredients for the topping.
Sift together the flour, baking soda and powder and cardamom.
Cream the butter and sugar, before adding the eggs, one at a time to discourage curdling. Add the vanilla essence.
Add the sifted ingredients and dairy component, a third at a time and alternating, ending with the dry ingredient. I do this as, again, it leaves you less likely to end with a split mixture.
Pour a third of the batter into a qreased cake tin. Sprinkle with half of the topping mixture. Repeat this then end with the final third of the batter.
Bake for 75 minutes and cool in the pan for 20 minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack.

Brew yourself a coffee once it’s cool and take a bite of heaven.