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Tuesday, 24 July 2007

What a cruel, cruel world for a cat

Farm life can be so very cruel…

Growing up on a farm, my absolute favourite animals were cats. If I had a dollar for every hour of my childhood I spent playing with cats, taunting cats, pretending to be a cat, forcing my little friends to be my kittens, and chasing cats, I would be a millionaire! This common knowledge earned me the name of “Cat Woman” in my hometown of Ste-Anne, Manitoba until I moved away at the age of seven. Needless to say, I have worked tremendously hard not to get attached to the twenty wild farm cats we now have.

But every now and again, one of the new kittens becomes brave and friendly and you can’t help but open your heart! I’ve told Mélina not to name them, but before we know it, we are referring to them as Oreo, Shivers, Panda, Stickers, etc…

My first lesson happened this time last year. A litter of three female kittens had been found: Stickers and Chloe were the good ones, particularly Chloe. She would run up to me and jump up on my shoulder as I walked around the farm. What a charmer! To my horror, Duane’s dad who comes into the yard several times a day to feed the cats leftovers and to feed the chickens, accidentally ran over Chloe who had been running towards his truck. This was hard to take and I reminded myself not to get attached.

Next we found Shivers, a tiny runt. We tamed him and often giggled at his small yet stocky figure and bulging blue eyes. He got some strange eye infection and we found him dead not to long afterwards. Same story with a few more kittens. Even Mina said “any kitten I play with dies.”

Chloe and Sticker’s mom had another litter this spring, Oreo and Panda. Oreo outshone all the cats to-date. Kids could pick him up by the tail, by the whiskers and he wouldn’t falter. He kept purring and smiling. Yes, smiling! He became my greeter as he always hung out by the door in hopes I’d slip him a little goat’s milk. Anika loved the way Oreo would climb on her lap when we’d sit outside. He followed me everywhere around the farm. Last I saw him, he was on the deck purring away yesterday afternoon as I headed back into the house.

Finally, Sticker (Chloe’s sister) stood out among the rest. She was the most tamed and she’d always greet me at the door, particularly because she wanted food! She got pregnant this spring and had her first litter last week. Surely her genetics would mean not-so-wild kittens?? I found them yesterday morning: four of them. But they were mewing like crazy. I kept an eye on them the rest of the day in hopes that Sticker would show her face. Had she abandoned them? Surprisingly, I didn’t see Sticker at all the rest of the day. This morning, I headed back to discover two of the kittens dead, one at death’s door and the other mewing with all its strength. My heart broke! How dare Sticker abandon her kittens! I picked up the stronger one and brought it to another litter of three week-old kittens in hopes they could keep the little one warm and hopeful until I put Anika down so I could tend to it properly. An hour later, Anika finally went down for her nap and I pumped a bit of milk and put it in a syringe in hopes I would be able to get the kitten to drink something. I went out to the litter and my heart stopped… it was gone! I searched frantically but could only find the five 3 week-old kittens. Could the mother have come back in that little time and taken the kitten somewhere else? Would she have killed it?

Truly upset, I came back to the house. Duane’s dad knocked on the door and said “I found two cats in the water barrel by the deck… drowned. Better get rid of them before they stink up the place.” (Always practical)

I froze. Please don’t let it be one of my favourites…

I went with Duane and discovered it was Sticker and her little brother, Oreo. They must have tried to get a drink and fell in. She hadn’t abandoned her babies… she’d died!

This was all too much in one day. I bawled my eyes out with no sympathy. “I warned you not to get attached.” Much appreciated words of wisdom from my husband… NOT! I know they’re just animals, but you can’t help but love the ones that stand out. I don’t try to love them, I just do! I don’t like any of the other gazillion wild cats! Why can’t they be the ones that die?? Why is it ALWAYS the good ones??

There’s my rant for today. I’m exhausted from tearing the place apart looking for that baby kitten. I’m exhausted from bawling and I’m whooped from missing my two good cats. It’s just not fair. What a cruel, cruel world.

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

Anika 6 months old!

Anika’s wedding was beautiful this weekend and next week, she and her husband are flying off to New Zealand to startup a new organic farm of wild buffalo… Well, with time flying as quickly as it has these past six months, it feels like it won’t be long before I’m sending out that very message. Ok, maybe it will be wild goats instead. J
Can you imagine if we learned new things and grew as much as our little ones do their first six months? From being helplessly tiny, grey-eyed and sleepy to rolling around, giggling, grabbing everything in sight, fighting naptimes, and discovering tantrums, and doubling in size. Hmmm, maybe this isn’t so different from adulthood.
These last couple of months, Anika has delighted in discovering her world. Two days ago she rolled over from her back unto her tummy for the first time and just like every other milestone to-date, she suddenly decides to try it once and is suddenly a pro. You can’t push her, though. Only when she’s good and ready. She is quite pleased with herself and kicks away in delight.
Her feet… she’s a little monkey in disguise! Never have I seen a child so expressive with their feet. Forget sign language, I can tell her mood by the way she moves and dances her little twinkle feet around. Jumping in the jolly jumper has provided hours of entertainment, and Anika seems to enjoy it, too! Seriously, I don’t know of a funnier sight than a little mini-person strapped in a contraption (which makes them look like they’re
parachuting) discovering freedom in bouncing around like an Easter bunny on catnip! It didn’t take her long to discover how to turn 180 degrees in mid-air, how to stop suddenly with poise or to leap at heights which challenge even the sturdiest spring. Attempting to take her out of it is just as amusing because as you lift the contraption off the ground to lie her down and take her out, she figures that if she tries to bounce furiously in the air, her feet might find some form of leverage. At least she gradually relaxed enough to ease the death grip she would get on the strings at either side of her head (this is what gave the impression she was parachuting). Those are some mighty hands she’s got!
Hair… not only is hers growing blonder and blonder but she has discovered the tiny hairs on the back of one’s neck and the funny sounds mommy can make when she pulls on them very hard. This is a classic Anika greeting: smile and pick her up, her little innocent hands outstretched to touch your face then suddenly they are around your neck as she attempts to take you down with some baby wrestling move! Not only can those little hands grab anything and everything in sight but she is learning basic sign language. "Milk" is a hand opening and closing as though milking a cow and lately she has finally figured this out. Her idea of yelling at me was putting her hand in my face while doing the milk sign in very quick succession. I was impressed. Tiny, cute fingers can also pinch. Tante Linda was left with a few greeting marks on her neck from holding Anika. We have yet to discover the sign for "GENTLE!"
Tonight, we brought in a litter of 3 week old kittens for her to explore. I sat her on the floor in front of me as her busy little hands reached every which way towards all five kittens. One shrieked and I quickly rescued it from her death grip while another was being lifted by its tail. Perhaps exploring farm animals will have to wait a while yet.
She LOVES the goats and the goats love her! All three kids come right up to her and her hands reach out (gently) and they sniff her as she giggles. This is right about the same time I discover one is nibbling on my pants!
Chickens are a creature of intrigue for Anika. She understands when I point to look in that direction so when we go walking by the chicken pen, I point out the free-ranging chickens and she spots each one. I make the "buck buck buck" sound and sign for chicken and she keeps staring at them with those permanently stunned blue eyes. The outdoors is by far her favourite place to be.
Vocabulary has expanded from opera singing to actual sounds like Ba-ba-ba-ba and now her favourite word "Da-da-da-da". Tonight she actually said "dad" a few times. Perhaps she thinks this is funny because it is immediately followed by mama saying "no, no, no Anika… say Ma-ma-ma-ma-ma." I can hear when she wakes up because she whispers "da-da-da-da".
She is definitely daddy’s little girl. Regardless of how long she’s been napping, she somehow knows when Duane has come into the house because she wakes up! Either that or he’s always too loud. J Perhaps a combination of the two. We call him "papa" and it’s become habit that when I call out to him for something, it isn’t "Duane!" or "Honey!" it is now "Papa!" Anika has recognized this and understands my calling out to him usually means he appears a few moments later so if I’m nursing her and call out to Duane, she whips her head around (owwww) to look for Papa. And when she spots him, her little feet start kicking.
We have introduced bananas and egg yolks this week… her first non-mommy food. And she LOVES it! Her appetite has grown considerably these last couple of weeks. I can barely keep up milk-production-wise. Sometimes she gets impatient with this and will smack my chest as she’s nursing! I don’t know if she figures this will stimulate more flow or if this is her made up sign for "hurry up, mom!" Either way, I’m not too keen on it. At least she doesn’t have any teeth yet!
She is certainly a busy body and refuses to be "trapped" on the floor or in her exersaucer. She wants to be held and walking around. Forget cuddling, she wants to be busy exploring. Sometimes I feel like her horse and buggy. She can’t quite sit on her own yet but no doubt we’re only days away from her deciding she wants to do it and will.
Mélina continues to be the best big sister anyone could ask for. She makes Anika giggle effortlessly. When the girls spend the week at their dad's, I often sit at the computer and show Anika pictures of Mina and Izzy. She stares in amazement. And whenever I bring her to see Isabel, she always reaches out her little hand and Izzy responds by putting hers out, too. The two stare at each other and when one smiles, the other follows immediately. It warms my heart!
We continue to delight in our precious daughter and thank God for every moment we have with her. We celebrated with loved ones her Baby Dedication back in June and we realize how incredibly blessed we are to have all of you in our lives as we stumble our way through parenthood. It is a humbling process and one that leaves us so vulnerable in our desire to raise our precious children in God’s light and love for His children. I could not imagine tackling life without knowing we had each of you at our side along the way. You are precious and dear to us.
Thank you for this and so much more.