Friday, October 25, 2013

The Cephalopod Coffee House: Blood of Dragons

I love fantasy. I read widely across genres, from picture books (of course) to literary works, middle grade and young adult, contemporary-realistic to steampunk and beyond. I've even dabbled in westerns and romance! But my favorite authors in later elementary school were Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, and I have to admit: a fantasy novel with good characterization will get me pretty much every time. So in addition to all the books I'm reading on autism, plus critiques and papers I'm grading, I picked up some fantasy to help me with my sanity.

Enter Blood of Dragons, the best book I've read this month!

Robin Hobb writes some excellent characters, and I've been reading her books (in trilogies, although not exactly in order) for a couple years. And her endings--well, her endings make me happy. Blood of Dragons is the last book of four, and Robin Hobb gave me pretty much everything I wanted. Comeuppance for evil villains! Survival of those who absolutely had to live for me to be satisfied! POV from reptilian dragons who seem very much not human! Carnage (in all the right ways)! Internal, thoughtful characterization, where characters grow to accept their strengths! It's not quite as good as the Liveship Trader series (my favorite), but Blood of Dragons distracted me during a rough month, and that's about all I could want in a novel.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Running out of gas

My title could be metaphorical, what with the three children and teaching job and cats and house that is sort of not falling apart except you could probably see the mess in our front room from Google Maps if it's been updated recently (don't check!), but this is a literal running out of gas. Let me tell you what happened a few days ago...

It all started when I was taking my five-year-old to Kindergarten. We were having the usual conversation ("Can I play games after school?" "No." "Can I stay home from school?" "No." "Whhhyyy?" "School is important. Look! A distracting noun of some sort that I see out the window!") when all the lights on our Prius lit up at once. The giant red triangle-exclamation-point thingy, the squiggly exclamation point, the one that has a plus and minus, the engine light, all of them. Luckily this made it so I didn't have to find a bee or a rabid dog outside to distract my five-year-old. I could point to the lights. But then again, I had never seen so many lights.

"What happens if our car explodes?" my five-year-old asked, clearly hoping to be exempt from school.

Unfortunately for him, the car stayed intact and made it to the kindergarten door with a minute to spare. Five-year-old dashed out, forgetting everything he'd just said because look! friendsrecessyay! He headed inside, and I headed for home. It's only a mile or so drive, and the many lights had dimmed to just three (including, of course, the big red exclamation triangle of potentially expensive despair), and I was just turning the fourth-to-last turn when our car slowed, the miles per hour ticking down from 15 to 10 to 5... I pushed the gas petal, but we were gentle-breeze slow at that point.

"Wheee!" said my three-year-old with absolute conviction.

"Whee," I said, pulling over to the side and hoping I wouldn't die right behind someone's driveway.

I drifted to a very slow stop in front of the house with the big star on it. I pulled out the three-year-old, who was extremely happy to have the car die because, hey, running by fences, and the baby, who drooled on my arm. We walked home. I put them down for naps. An hour later we walked back, me pushing a stroller and carrying a gas can that I hoped would let our car move.

It worked. The lights turned off. My baby and three-year-old had to go back in the car, which smelled very much like gas because of the gas can I had to carry in the back.

Whee indeed.

So. Moral of this story is that the battery in a Prius only lasts about a half-mile once you run out of gas. And school is important.

A platypus!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Ophelia, Part 3

Ophelia died of lung cancer last Saturday evening. She was seven and a half.

She loved our boys. She would let them crawl up to her as babies, grab her ears, bury their faces in her belly.

She sat on our lap for hours, purring. Her claws were perpetually out. Many of my pants have snags because of her, and all our towels, but I don't regret a single misplaced thread.

We have spots all over the basement carpet where she threw up or couldn't make the litter box. She wheezed the past few years, but we thought it was asthma because she is chubby. The vet didn't catch the tumor when we took her in for an ear infection six months ago. Cancer in cats is hard to catch. But if you think your cat is sick, if you think she's having trouble breathing, it might be worth getting an X-ray.

She moved from south Salt Lake to our Sandy apartment to our new house. She doted on all three of our boys. She scratched my husband's chest when she was resting there and our two-year-old sent an empty milk gallon down the stairs, she killed countless spiders and flies and ate them, and she was the sweetest, snuggliest cat I've ever met.

This is Ophelia, as of last week. She loved the boys even on her sick blanket. And now our baby keeps chasing Scout, who is far more skittish, just hoping that she'll let him snuzzle her fur like her sister used to. She won't, but that won't stop him from trying...
I miss my chubsy cat.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Ophelia, Part 2

This part may seem to be about Scout. And it kind of is. But Ophelia is there, always there, the cute mewling innocent instigator...

Okay. So we got a one-bedroom apartment. It was small, and in the basement, so our cats could hunt all the interesting bugs that came inside. They also liked to play chase, dashing from living room down the hall into the bathroom and jumping inside the empty bathtub before sprinting out again. They always followed that pattern, no matter who was the chaser and who was the chasee: from living room to hall to bathtub, skid and tumble out and repeat for many wild minutes.

I graduated in May of 2007. My husband graduated in April. And on the morning of his graduation he shaved, picked out a button-up shirt and black pants, and ran some hot bathwater. He left the door open, because we were married, and it was our very own apartment, and he didn't really think about it. He settled back into the bubbles.

And Ophelia decided it was time to play chase.

Ophelia was a stockier build than Scout, so you could hear her when she started up in the living room. I was on the bed, reading, and I didn't really think about it when they rushed down the hall, Scout in the lead with Ophelia close behind.

Then I heard the splash. A shout from my husband. A squeaky, frantic pawing. I stood up, peering around the corner. And this is what I saw:
See that trail of toilet paper? And that wet cat? Do you also notice THE TOTALLY DRY CAT IN THE BACK? That would be Ophelia...
Ophelia had chased Scout right into the full bathtub. Scout tried to twist in the air, jumping at the walls and landing on my husband's leg. She clawed her way out, toilet paper stuck to her wet paw and trailing after her.

The fateful bathtub
Post-soaking Scout
Of course my husband got dressed. He graduated. We smiled for pictures.

It would be easy to blame Scout. She's our vocal cat with the loud Siamese meow, the one who follows me around and demands water from my hand and laptime on her terms. Ophelia was always sweet, chubby and floppy, always relaxed on the bed. But Scout wasn't the chaser that time, on the Day of the Bloody-Leg Graduation...

Look at how forgiving he is! Or maybe Ophelia's just too snuggly to resist.
TOMORROW: the conclusion I don't want to write.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Ophelia, Part 1

Once upon a time in 2006, my husband and I adopted sister Siamese kittens from Wasatch Animal Rescue. We named one Scout, and one Ophelia.

Scout liked to be alert. When we took them home, Scout yowled loudly in the crate, demanding to be released.

Ophelia sat in the back. She didn't make a sound.

Our kittens got used to the basement where we lived. They slept on our bed and pounced on our feet all the night long. I was going to graduate school at the University of Utah, and my husband was finishing his bachelor's degree at BYU. We studied sometimes. But it was more fun to play...

You can see why!
Ophelia always had those light brown marks on her back as a baby. When she got older, she got darker, until she was almost black. We jokingly called her our "watermelon cat."

Teen Ophelia.

Cheap camera + cat gaining weight = flattering picture? Only Ophelia could pull it off. Especially when you imagine petting that chubby fuzzy belly...

Within two months we moved out of the basement into our very own one-bedroom apartment in south Salt Lake City. The dishwasher door could touch the wall, the police often came to chat with various drug-loving neighbors, and the walls smelled like fungus. But it was ours and we loved it. So did our cats.

Then Scout sort of accidentally attacked, and things got bloody...


Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Life Stuff

New stuff in my life:

1. Our three-year-old son is on the autistic spectrum. Like he has Aspergers, except Aspergers isn't a thing anymore, so spectrum is a good word to know? Anyway, he's still cute, and he still draws some excellent brick fences, and we all love him a lot.

2. One of our cats is sick, but it's looking like she probably has pneumonia instead of lung cancer since antibiotics seem to be working. This is definitely a good thing.

3. Have you ever tried bringing a crawling nine-month-old, a three-year-old, a five-year-old, and a thirteen-pound cat to a vet with you as the ONLY ADULT RESPONSIBLE PERSON? I have! Also, I am still alive! This seems like something to be proud of.

4. I love writing. And reading. And you, if you read or write. Seriously, stories keep me sane.

I drew this picture of a Unicat for you. I guess technically it has wings, so it's an alicorn-cat (an alicat. Get it?), but I made this song about unicats in third grade that I wrote on sheet music and everything, so the name sorta stuck...