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The Undomestication of Jasper

Our family pet is a cat named Jasper whom we rescued from an abandoned storage shed when he was an infant, much to my husband’s chagrin.  Dan is not a pet-person.

The fact that Jasper is still with us (by “with us” I mean in our house, but also ALIVE), is a testament to Dan’s great love for me.  And the fact that Jasper came with us from Alabama to our new, smaller home in Georgia means that Dan will never, ever leave me.  Our relationship has been pushed to the brink and has survived.

Jasper has endured some difficult days over the last three years; living with Madeline will do that to you.  There was the time he almost hung himself in the blinds.  And the time Madeline drug him around the house in a shopping bag.  And the time she pulled him into her bath by his toes.  And the time she grabbed him by his haunches, dragged him into the hallway, and forcibly kept him there during a tornado drill (by laying on top of him).

But Jasper’s greatest challenge happened over the course of the last two months when we made the decision to transition him from an exclusively indoor pet to an indoor/outdoor dweller.

As Jasper never had a cat-mom, he doesn’t really know how to be a cat; he had no proper parenting.  For the last two months I’ve watched what I’ve dubbed “The Undomestication of Jasper.”

It’s a saga, really – a bit like the movie Madagascar, where you get to watch Alex the lion grow wilder and wilder by the minute.  And it. is. hilarious.

It is important to know that up until this point, Jasper spent 80% of his waking hours trying to get outside.  (The other 20% were spent eating and being drug around in shopping bags.)  He used to crouch by the front door every evening, poised and ready, and as soon as Dan turned the knob, Jasper leapt up, hissed, and – while a startled Dan was shouting “WE ARE GETTING RID OF THIS CAT TONIGHT” – shot out of the crack in the door and hid in the bushes.

You see?  Dan’s love for me is unshakable.

It all started the first time I let Jasper outside here.  He crept out  s-l-o-w-l-y, tail between his legs, looking over his shoulder at me suspiciously like, “Am I allowed to do this?”  I’m sure he thought it was entrapment; that as soon as he stopped looking sorry I was going to snatch him up, pop his nose and close him in the laundry room for a time-out.  I sat outside for a minute while he sniffed around, then came back in and closed the door.  His response was a full-blown feline FREAK OUT.  His eyes tripled in size, he pinned his ears back, stood up on his hind legs and tried to paw his way back through the glass door.  He made noises I’ve never heard a cat make – howls.  He circled the house, stopping to moan at every single door and window.

I decided perhaps a gentler approach…

The next day I left the sliding door open and my pansy of a pet spent 9 hours laying on the rug without so much as the tips of his paws crossing the threshold – as if there were a force field between him and the great outdoors.  I moved his food onto the deck and he just SAT THERE and WATCHED while a stray cat ventured up and ate the whole bowl.

 

After two days of feeding 4 different stray cats, I decided enough was enough.  On the eve of the second day I plopped Jasper outside, closed the door, and went to bed.

He cried all night long.  At 5:00 am he hopped up on our windowsill and moaned like,

“Guys!  Hey guys!  THERE ARE NO BEDS OUT HERE.”

But I’m happy to say that Jasper’s progress has been remarkable.  A couple of weeks ago I caught his very first jump off of the back deck.  He was teetering on the edge like a little kid mustering the courage to jump off a diving board.  He stuck his neck out to peer over the edge, and it was just enough forward momentum to tip the scale; he was going over and he couldn’t recover.  His hind legs did roadrunner-circles trying to back-paddle, but he couldn’t fight it – he officially flopped out of the nest.

Today, he is leaping up on the railings and pouncing at my birds, all tiptoes and shoulder blades, like a pro –  very Simba and Zazu.  He’s also eating my pansies, which I greatly prefer to him acting like one.  In fact, I just looked outside and saw him prowling the front yard with a leaf stuck to his butt.

Welcome to cat-dom Jasper.  You’ve arrived, big man.

The Real Jasper

Remember when I wrote about the time Madeline cornered Jasper under the couch, poured his food on his head and down my vent, then emptied his “glitterbox” into the empty food bowl? And then pulled him into her bath with her?  All in the same day?

The infatuation continues.

This morning  I noticed Madeline dragging a bag around the house.
She was way too interested in the stupid bag for it not to be something mischievous.
So I grabbed a camera and asked her what she was doing.

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Cat Trouble

Or more accurately, Madeline trouble.

Madeline has always loved Jasper.
Jasper has always been ambivalent towards Madeline.

Occasionally he’d get all wild-eyed and pounce on her one too many times, forcing us to close him in the laundry room until he chilled out.

In recent weeks, however their relationship has taken a dramatic turn.  The hunter has become the hunted.

Last week as I was laying under a blanket reading the second Harry Potter book dusting, I heard an unfamiliar moaning sound.  It belonged to neither of my children – I can say this with confidence as I have long since memorized every sound their little bodies are capable of making.

It made me anxious nonetheless, so I dropped my book the duster and followed the sound with haste.

I discovered Madeline – all four limbs wrapped around the cat in a death-lock, nuzzling him aggressively with her chin and saying, “Awwww, Jaspeerrrrrrr,” whilst Jasper let out a long, tortured moan.  Unable to move his head, he shifted his yellow eyes around, searching for rescue.  When he saw me he let out a quick, urgent meow that went up at the end, as if he were asking a question.

“Help me?”

“Madeline! Let Jasper go.  When he makes that sound he’s asking to be let go.”

She did, but followed him around the house all day screeching, “Here kitty, kitty, kitty.  Heeeeerreee Jasper!”  And poking him.

Jasper cowered under the couch for the rest of the afternoon.

Little did I know that this was but a foreshadow of the unimaginable madness to follow.

The next morning I walked into the living room to find two legs and a butt sticking out from underneath the couch.

“Madeline, what are you doing?”

“I’m feeding Jasper.”

Cue sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach.

Jasper was hiding under the couch.  Madeline had retrieved his bowl from the laundry room, tracked down the cat, wriggled her whole body under there, bowl in hand, and emptied it onto the carpet/into the vent. (If I told you that I got under there with the vacuum hose I would be lying.  Jasper snacked on it for 2 days.)

Here Madeline got a speech.  “Until I can trust you to make good choices, you have to leave the cat – and all of his things -  alone.”

Yes, ma’am, she said.

She did alright for a four-year old, especially considering that the thing she wasn’t supposed to be touching is really soft and kept wandering past her, wearing down her resolve.  I only had to rescue a moaning Jasper from Madeline’s affection about 8 times that afternoon.

But then evening rolled around…

I was sitting on the couch feeding Sam and I had not heard from Madeline in several minutes.  **Danger, Will Robinson**  As soon as Sam finished his bottle I set out to find her.  She was not in her room, not in the bathroom, not in the play area. Uh oh.  Not in the kitchen, living room or dining room.  So, already frustrated, I marched to laundry room – where we keep all things “cat.”

And there was my child.

Filling up the cat bowl with food and…what is that?  Oh, USED LITTER.  Jasper’s dish was overflowing with food and clumps of ammonia-soaked cat pee and large cat turds, layered like a big, disgusting trifle.

It is an understatement to say that I lost it.

I try not to yell at my kids, but I yelled.  I yelled loud.  And a lot.  I yelled at her about germs and disease, and how if she so much as brushed me or my carpet or my walls with those hands on the way to the bathroom I would give her the spanking heard around the world.  I plopped her in a deep bath with lots of soap (because we were fresh out of lye), and stepped into the hallway, flabbergasted.

I leaned with my back against the wall and took a few deep breaths.  I was so preoccupied with the mess that I did not see the cat wander into the bathroom.

Minutes later I heard:

Splash!  EeeeeEEEEee!  Rawwwweeeuuuurrrr!  Hissssss! <indiscriminate splashing and clawing sounds> And my daughter:  “It’s okaaaayyyy Jaspeeeerrr.” 

I looked down to see the cat wander out of the bathroom in a daze.  Fur matted down, shaking water from his paws, shivering and dragging his sopping tail behind him, leaving a thin trail of water from the tub all the way to his hiding place under the couch, where I presume he had himself a little snack.

“MADELINE! HOPE! CONNER!  WHAT DID YOU JUST DO?”

(silence)

“*Ahem,* Madeline.  Did you pull Jasper into the bathtub?”

“Well, he put his paws up here to look over the edge, so I grabbed them and pulled him in.  He wanted  to come.”

“Let me get this straight, young lady.  You grabbed him by his front paws and pulled him by his thumbs over the edge of the tub and into your bath?  After Mommy told you three times to leave. him. alone.”

“Yes.”

On an unrelated note, my eye is twitching again.

 

To be fair, if someone instructed me not to snuggle him, I would fail almost immediately.
To be fair, if someone instructed me not to snuggle him, I would fail almost immediately.

He Needs Counseling

It was 100° by 10:00am the other day, and Jasper’s new favorite place to sleep is on my computer battery. 

Because it’s not HOT ENOUGH in this house.

Question: Will he get cancer from this?  Is there a computer battery therory like the cell phone theory?  

I’d really like to know, because one year my roommates and I unwittingly killed our  fish by keeping it on top of the microwave (it was the only empty surface in our tiny dorm room).  To be honest I don’t think I can handle that kind of guilt trauma again.

Although, considering his proclivity to sit INSIDE of plastic bags….

Could Jasper be trying to take his own life?  He’s such a drama queen.

Easter II

I wanted to share a little bit about our Easter weekend.  My thoughts about the holiday are here.  All the pictures, however, are following:

Feverish Madeline spent the morning curled up in fetal position on my lap.  As a mom, that makes my heart soar.  I didn’t want to breathe too hard for fear that she’d realize she was SITTING STILL FOR MORE THAN THREE SECONDS.  I sat on the floor wearily and dreamily, kissing her moppy head.  Moms don’t think twice about being in the fevery, runny-nose, festering, germ-epicenter of the house; being the mom-arms that make everything okay, that makes your heart so full it could burst.   

After breakfast we opened her Easter basket, which was full of her three favorite things:
1. Books.
2. Flower seeds for planting.
3. M&Ms.

Aaaand, she also got a new bed!  For FREE!  (Thanks to Craigslist and my blessed husband who was willing to drive across Huntsville in a church van at 10:00 last night.)  We’ll switch her bed back into a crib and put the twin in her room sometime this week.  That is, if we can tear it away from this character.

For now, it’s set up in the living room.  She’s mostly jazzed about the purple sheets. 

We also painted nails. 

Dainty.
Dainty.

And watered our Easter grass.  What, I haven’t told you about Easter grass!?!?  It is the ONLY thing I’ve ever been able to grow.  Ever.   Probably because no one cares if it dies right after Easter.  Low-pressure.

You must, must, must try this, okay?  Easter grass is really just wheat grass.  You buy a bunch of wheat berries from a health food store like Earth Fare or Whole Foods.  Now, I mentioned that as of Tuesday, I was woefully unprepared for any kind of Easter activity.  So, if you are like me and realize merely DAYS before Easter that you haven’t planted your wheat berries for your daughter – which is one of the only Easter traditions in place at this point so it’s kind of important, and that grass doesn’t just magically appear; you have to, um, GROW IT – no fear!  You just plop the berries in a bowl of warm water overnight…

Dude, some people eat these...
Dude, some people eat these...

…Throw a ton of the little guys in a basket, or cup, or pot, or seven, depending on how much your child loves dirt…

Mine loves dirt ardently.
Mine loves dirt ardently.

 

Eh, we use them liberally.
Eh, we use them liberally.

Cover ‘em with a thin layer of dirt…

Get excited.

And keep them moist by turning your kids loose with a spray bottle twice a day.  (Or, alternatively, you could leave them outside during some typical Alabama severe weather, wake up at 3am and lay there debating whether or not it’s worthwhile to get your fat, pregnant self out of bed to go rescue the little guys from the torrential downpour for the sake of your daughter.  Decide that no, it’s not.  Then wake up again an hour later and lay there feeling guilty for a while.  Turns out, they will survive.  Which is why even people like me can grow Easter grass.) 

And if you procrastinate in such a way, they’ll still look like this by Easter morning!   Not too shabby!  

Zero to grass in 4 days.
Zero to grass in 4 days.

Now, if you plant them, like, 4 days sooner, your grass will be full and thick and lush and perfect for nestling eggs and treats and springy surprises down in there.  It’s pretty magical – to have a basket full of real “Easter grass.”  Not to mention beautiful.  Maybe next year…

And because traditions make family life special, I found this easy, edible, meaningful Easter tradition to start with the kids next year.  (KIDS!  Do you like how I just slid that in there?)   I like it because it has nothing to do with eggs or bunnies – and everything to do with an empty tomb.  As my wise, kindred-spirit friend Jamie noted earlier this week,

“The broken body of Messiah has nothing in common with a chocolate egg, which is sweet on the tongue but brings death to partakers. No, the body – the unleavened bread, the spotless Lamb – is a bitter sacrifice, difficult to chew and painful to swallow, but the life and healing it brings are sweet like nothing else. Like nothing else.” 

She’s great.  Back to the tradition. 

It’s simple enough for little ones to grasp, and still magical for older kids.  How cute are these guys!?!  (Originally posted here, by my friend Katie, whose blog is fun and you should read it.)

They’re called Resurrection Rolls. 

You fill crescent rolls with marshmallows and, once baked, the marshmallows melt away leaving a hollow center – an “empty tomb!”

Recipe:

  • 1 package Cresent rolls
  • melted butter
  • large marshmallows
  • cinnamon
  • sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Give each kiddo a triangle of cresent rolls.
The cresent roll represents the cloth that Jesus was wrapped in.

Give each kiddo a marshmallow.
This represents Jesus and His purity.

Have them dip the marshmallow in melted butter.
This represents the oils of embalming.

Dip the buttered marshmallow in the cinnamon and sugar.
This represents the spices used to annoint the body of Jesus.

Wrap the coated marshmallow tightly in the cresent roll
(not like a typical cresent roll up, but bring the sides up and seal the marshmallow inside)
This represents the wrapping of Jesus’ body after death.

Place in a 350 degree oven for 10 to 12 minutes.
The oven represents the tomb (pretend like it was 3 days and nights!)

When the rolls have cooled slightly, the kids can open their rolls (cloths) and discover that Jesus is no longer there; HE IS RISEN, and he is Lord.

 Fact:  I will not wait until next Easter to try these.  Yum.  You had me at butter and cinnamon.

Is that sufficient rambling for today?  Sick kid, free mattress, Easter grass, and Resurrection rolls?  Yes.  I think that’ll do.  Happy Easter, all! 

Wait no!  I have more rambling!  What it’s not like I’m holding you hostage – you can LEAVE if you want to.  Do you sometimes wonder what people who work at a church DO???  Like, during the week?  Well if you are in youth minstry, you probaby spend your time writing point values on hundreds of plastic eggs with Sharpies.  And stuffing them with coupons for free Frostys.  Then you might spend an afternoon cooking oatmeal and rice and beans and noodles and spinach in mass quantities – none of which are for eating.  Then you pour all that food (plus whatever expired yogurt and condiments are in your fridge) into giant buckets full of easter eggs.  Then you put the buckets (plus a bunch of other eggs) out in a giant field.  Then you station youth leaders around with hoses, and pool noodles, and water balloons.  Then you wait for it to get really dark, give your teams of teenagers flashlights, and tell them that whoever gets the most points wins. 

Warning:  You will have to wash all those nasty Easter eggs in your bathtub at midnight.  You’ll have to wash them 4 times because the oil will not come off easily.  And buying new eggs is out of the question because that costs money, of which there is none. 

Festive!
Festive!

And then you will stay up late watching a movie with your husband, because you have to stuff goodie bags for the little kids egg hunt in the morning.  You will also have to pray that an unsuspecting child doesn’t find an egg with expired mashed potatoes and salsa in it. 

Warning #2: Your kid might get wet.

Okay, now I’m done.

Birthday Boy

A year ago, we found this little guy and his three brothers in an old shed that Dan was tearing down.

Streeettch.  (Roughly 9 days old.)
Streeettch. (Roughly 9 days old.)

I begged to keep him, and Dan’s exact words were, “Whatever.  But if you keep it, it’s YOUR CAT.”  (Little did Dan know that he’d be changing the litter for 9 months because his wife was going to go and get all pregnant.)

I picked this particular guy because there were no girls and he looked the least likely to die.  (Yes, likeliness to die was my determining factor.  No worries, we took his brothers to the animal hospital.)

I named him Jasper.  He slept on a heating pad, and I fed him out of a bottle for a long time.

Then he grew up and got a little ornery.

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His relationship with Dan is still strained.  He still beats Madeline up sometimes, but she’s very forgiving.

He has tufts on his ears, tiger stripes on his legs, an M on his forehead, and lovely white eyeliner.   He’s also huge.

I’m thankful for Jasper every day.  For those of you who don’t like cats, allow me to explain.

He does not whine.  He does not throw temper tantrums.
Unlike my toddler, he ALWAYS uses his toilet (okay, litter box) – always.
I do not have to cook for him, and he’s not a picky eater.
He does not talk about sports, or church, or veggie tales.
He does not ask questions.
He does not leave his clothing/shoes/toys/mail/keys all over the house.
He’s tidy and quiet and he never, ever hurts my feelings.
He follows me around from room to room, like a puppy, only he doesn’t smell bad.
He keeps himself impeccably clean, and he’s the softest cat I’ve ever owned.

He just lays around looking cute and snuggly all the time.  And when everything in my world is crazy, I sneak into my bedroom, and bury my face in his downy white belly.  He just looks at me, and he lets me pet him, and he lowers my blood pressure.

And that is why I like my cat.  He’s soft, and cute, and neat, and quiet, and he lowers my blood pressure.

Happy birthday, Jasper.  Thanks for keeping me sane.

Misbehavior

It is my belief that yesterday the planets aligned, and the gravitational pull of the moon was just so, that some force of mischievousness fell upon all the beings in my house.  Either that, or God thought, “Huh, it’s been a few days since I had a good laugh at Kate.”

Incident #1.  I was sitting on my couch last night when Madeline walked over and handed me a throw pillow (from the other couch, because she cannot rest until everything in our home is uprooted and placed somewhere that it doesn’t belong – like the floor, or the bathtub, or the black hole that is her Dora Kitchen.  Only God knows what is in that tiny pink refrigerator).

She plopped the pillow in my lap, and as I ran my hands over it, I felt…bumps.  Like hard little chunks of something underneath the pillowcase.  I opened it up and pulled out a piece of petrified something.  Then another.  Then another.  What ON EARTH?  Are they caramels?   No…they smell…rancid.   Oh no, oh no, oh no, OH NO!

IT’S A PIECE OF PORK CHOP!  FROM LAST WEEK!  I will spare you a picture, although I was tempted to document the evil genius of my 2-year-old.

I can picture the crime scene now:  We were all eating dinner in the living room.  (Why the living room, you ask?  Because of the blame puzzle. I WILL NEVER GIVE UP.  Plus, The Office was on.)

“Madeline, you must eat three more bites of pork chop before you are excused.”

Madeline smirks, waits until nobody is looking , and slides three pieces up her sleeve.  She meanders over to the place on the floor where she has collected all of the throw pillows in the whole house.   She OPENS UP a pillow, and releases all three pieces of pork chop inside the pillow case.

EVIL GENIUS.  What happened to dropping it on the floor?  Or stuffing pockets?  Where does she get this stuff?

Incident #2.  We dropped Jasper off at the vet yesterday, to have his boy-parts removed.  It was…an ordeal.  When the vet tech tried to listen to his heart, Jasper began to flail all of his limbs spastically, like he was trying to fly away. Claws and fur everywhere.

When the vet came in to help, Jasper rolled onto his back, stuck out his claws, and started bicycle-kicking with all four limbs, making himself impossible to pick up.   They left the room and came back with a towel to wrap him up and restrain his kung-fu kitty limbs.  He hissed viciously and wriggled free.  Eventually, they had to take him out of the room, where THREE professionals held him down in his towel just to listen to his heartbeat.

I was so embarrassed.  In that moment it felt like he was my child who was throwing a temper tantrum in the grocery store.  When everyone reentered the room I picked up my little buddy to comfort him a bit, and defend his honor.  He sniffed my nose and calmed down a little bit.  I said, “I promise, he’s really a very pleasant cat at home.”   As soon as the words left my lips, he betrayed me.  He SCRATCHED ME, ON THE FACE, leaving a big red claw mark across my cheek.

The vet just nodded.  I imagine she was thinking, “Sure, scarface, I bet he’s very pleasant.”

Ugh.

But you know what?  Dan behaved very well yesterday.

Pedestrian

I think that I will allow you into my inner circle for a moment; won’t you enjoy the pedestrian details of my life with me?

Welcome to Conner-world!  Land of  unfolded laundry, cracked out cats, and the ugliest gold curtains ever to be stitched into existence!

Exhibit #1.  Jasper is a real freak sometimes.

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“Are you stuck buddy?”  ”Yeeessss.”

Exhibit #2.  She’s her father’s daughter.

Exhibit #3.  I found the following items in the bottom of the washer today.

ALL IN ONE LOAD.  So I didn’t do so hot with my pocket-emptying this morning.  Earlier this year my iPod would have been pictured here.  And then the Holy Spirit came upon it in power and healed it.  Sometimes the menu button sticks a little bit, but I certainly can’t hold it against the little guy after he survived an hour submerged in soapy water.  Oh, and a spin cycle.

Exhibit #4.  Today I told Dan, “I could really use some caffeine, but I don’t want to go through the hassle of drinking a cup of coffee.”   He responded by singing this song.  I caught the reference immediately, and that is why we love each other.

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TELL ME you remember the caffeine pill episode!

Guess What

Look what weeeee found... (The cat, not the kid.  We already had the kid.)
Look what weeeee found... (The cat, not the kid. We already had the kid.)

Check out this little black ball of fluff and warm-fuzzies.  Her name is Sadie.

Sadie Jane, Sadie Mae, Ladybug-Sadiebug.  And no, I’m not attached.  Where on earth would you get THAT idea?

A friend found her freezing to death under a porch, and brought her over last night.  It was almost enough to send Dan into a psychotic break.  That’s all he needs, another cat. Or the reputation that his wife has turned this house into some kind of safe-haven for kittens everywhere.

I assured him that we would find little Sadie a good home (not ours) in the immediate future.  And so, like the SAINT that he is, Dan agreed to run to the store in the middle of the night for flea treatment.  He loves me an awful lot, but I think this trip was mostly to get out of the cat-house.   Because as soon as he got back, he retreated (locked himself in) to the bedroom.

Madeline, on the other hand, is smitten.  She is holding Sadie by the neck/jaw/hind legs and snuggling her saying, “Awwww, this kitty is sooooo sweet.”   And I keep telling her,”Okay, thats enough.”   Take it easy Lennie Small.

But funnier than Dan or Madeline’s reactions – is Jasper’s.  He can’t decide if he wants to kiss her or eat her.  At times he’s a very motherly, which is totally hilarious because we haven’t had him fixed yet – so every now and then as he’s snuggling her or bathing her or toting her around in his mouth, I get a glimpse of his junk  and laugh out loud, picturing him as a wonderfully gay cat-dad.

"Let me wipe your face honey, you can't go out looking like a ragamuffin."
"Let me wipe your face honey, you can't go out looking like a ragamuffin."

But when he’s not busy nurturing his “young,” he’s playing with his new toy.  Batting at her and sending her frailness bouncing across the living room floor.  Or pinning her down on her back and poking at her gingerly with his paws.

Whether he’s trying to snuggle her or pounce on her – he’s always there – lurking.  In every photo, lurking.

Jasper stage right.  Sadie is about to get it.
Jasper stage right. Sadie is about to get it.
She never saw it coming...
She never saw it coming...
Aerial attack!
Aerial attack!
LURKER
LURKER

Hilarious.

Well, our little Sadie Belle needs a happy home!  Any takers?   She’s free, super-snuggly – and just in time for Halloween!!!

Boo.
Boo.